Monday, 2 June 2014

Top 10 tips for an Effective Trustee Board - from NUS and Joanna Davey Consulting

The National Union of Students (NUS), a Trustees' Week partner, has summarised top tips for an effective trustee board from a webinar the organisation previously ran on developing existing boards. Follow @nusuk 

1. Invest time in induction
Each new board member brings a range of skills and experience to the board. They will only be able to contribute these fully if they realise what is expected of them as a trustee, understand the organisation’s strategic objectives and appreciate the organisation’s operating environment, particularly the threats and opportunities. Spending time inducting new trustees is an investment in them and the organisation. It helps them to get up to speed quickly, feel confident and start adding value to the board. Where induction is neglected new trustees can feel confused, unable to contribute to discussions and decision-making leading to loss of confidence and enthusiasm. Some trustees leave boards far sooner than they had planned because they lose their motivation and feel they are not valued by the organisation.

2. Invest in your trustees

Once trustees understand the basics they will be able to contribute to the work of the board. They will be able to be even more effective if their skills and experience are enhanced by training or development. For example, they may need some specialist knowledge about the organisation and its environment, a greater understanding of the financial responsibilities of a trustee and how to better understand financial information, or how to communicate the vision of the organisation to others. Trustees will benefit from appraisal of their performance, highlighting which skills or experiences are particularly valued and how they can be used to benefit the organisation. Personal development planning may be appropriate and both mentoring and coaching are highly successful ways to provide tailored development opportunities.

3. Develop the board as a team

 The board is a team and benefits from having time to review working relationships and decide how best to work together. Knowing your board colleagues helps to develop trust and a good sense of commitment. It also builds the social aspect of being involved which is often an important reason people volunteer to join a board.

4. Nurture Chair and CEO relationship

The Chair and CEO fulfil two key roles for an organisation and their relationship is crucial to an organisation’s success. Together they provide a critical communication link between the board and staff. For many student officers this will be the first time they have had the responsibility of chairing a charity and as such it is especially important to nurture the relationship with an experienced CEO. Some students’ unions opt to appoint experienced external trustees to act as deputy chairs to offer consistency and mentor officers in supporting and challenging the CEO. Together the chair and deputy chair can be a sounding board for the CEO’s ideas, a listener when times are tough and a check when enthusiasm is in danger of overwhelming resources. Likewise the CEO needs to understand the board’s priorities and can discuss with the chair how these are being translated into reality.

5. Spend time planning the future together
Each year the board should review the organisation’s work; identify what has gone well and what could be done better; recognise what progress has been made with strategic objectives and agree priorities for the next year. These discussions can then link into a wider business planning process. Having an annual away day is an excellent opportunity to stand back and refresh the board’s thinking. It works best if it is run in a way that encourages fresh thinking and an open minded approach.

6. Plan the board’s work for the year

The board’s time is valuable and limited. Each meeting needs to be progressing the organisation’s work and priorities. There is a cycle to any board’s work so having a plan for key decisions during the year will enable staff as well as trustees to plan their work effectively. Where such planning is ineffective, extra or emergency meetings may need to be arranged, which are a poor use of staff and trustee resources.

7. Remember to scan the horizon as well as the day to day

If the board becomes focussed on the day to day this may drag down the focus of the CEO. It may mean that no-one is looking further ahead. It is the board’s job to ensure the organisation’s future and trustees have to scan the horizon regularly for opportunities as well as threats. Then the organisation can plan how to exploit those opportunities or avoid / mitigate those threats.

8. Decide on your appetite for risk

Both action and inaction present risks for an organisation. Knowing the costs and benefits of taking certain actions helps to develop an understanding of risk. Trustees should spend time each year considering the organisation’s risks and agreeing the type and severity of risk they are willing to accept in order to achieve the organisation’s objectives. Working with staff they can identify ways to mitigate risks should they be realised.

9. Appraise board performance

The best performing boards invest in their governance and carry out an annual appraisal of their collective performance. This can include self-assessment and independent feedback on performance, as well as feedback from senior staff. Such a process should identify what is working well, what needs to change and produce an action plan for implementation.

10. Focus, focus, focus….on your vision, mission and values

The board of trustees are the guardians of the organisation’s vision, mission and values. If they lose sight of the organisation’s purpose, the reason it exists and the values that underpin its work then the organisation can drift, get involved in unsuitable distractions and even fail. Focussing the work of the staff and the organisation’s resources on the vision, mission and values will keep the organisation on track and heading for success.

At Joanna Davey Consulting we support our clients to enhance their performance and lead their organisations to success. We offer a range of services including board effectiveness reviews, 360 degree appraisals, facilitation, teambuilding, coaching and mentoring. Please get in touch for an initial free consultation. or 07968 267630

No comments:

Post a Comment