Reflection on Episode 10: The importance of good questions

When I lead board orientations, I always try to take myself back to when I first joined a board. As a new Board member, I didn’t understand much about the role of the board, how the group functioned or much about how the organization worked. Sometimes my lack of experience and knowledge left me sitting there with little to say. Or if I did have something to say, sometimes I would worry that my comment or question would be off base and I might embarrass myself. Board members I serve with now sometimes look at me skeptically when I tell them of my first year of near total silence. Although these feelings are natural, if you’re going to serve as a board director, you need to contribute something, you need so say something, you can’t just sit there in silence. You would just be taking up valuable space from someone else who could contribute something. A great starting point for any Board member to contribute to the work of the Board is to always be prepared to ask good questions.

I developed a list of ten questions I believe its always okay for board members to ask. I give this list to board members and ask them to put it on the outside cover of their governance binder so that they always have it handy to refer to during meetings if they feel they have nothing to say. On the board I chair, I encourage board members to “get their stick on the ice” by making sure they speak at least once each meeting.

When Andrew and I discussed doing an episode on my ten questions, we came up with a better idea. Why don’t we take advantage of the expertise of our guests and ask them what questions they think are always okay for board members to ask? I’m glad we took this approach because our experts suggested some questions I hadn’t thought of. I won’t spoil the episode by reflecting on their questions now, but we encourage you to check out this, our tenth episode, for a revisit with some of our guests for their insights on questions.

We have a lot more to say about the value of questions in board meetings, but too much for this short blog. If we hear you liked this episode, we’ll do another one in the future and will include more discussion on the value of questions in this space.

About Paul and Andrew

Who are Paul Wilton and Andrew Jardine?

Paul is an experienced not-for-profit Board member who has served on Boards at the local, provincial, and national level. He has been the Chair of the Ontario Hemophilia Society and currently is the Chair of the Canadian Hemophilia Society. Paul was born and raised in London, Ontario and attended King’s University College at Western University where he earned a BA in Honors Political Science. After that, he went on to complete a Bachelors of Education at Western, a Masters in Public Administration, and is currently enrolled in a PhD in Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. He has been an active member of his community and in 2012 he was recognized by his alma mater as the Young Alumni of the Year. At his high school Paul won “Student of the year” although there are claims that he stuffed the ballots. He currently is the Senior Liaison Officer for King’s University College and is responsible for recruitment strategies for enrolling students both domestic and international. Paul lives with his partner and three dogs near London, Ontario.

Andrew is the Secretary to the Board of Directors and Executive Assistant to the Principal at King’s University College. As Board Secretary, he advises management and the Board about policy, process, and governance principles. He serves his local parish as the Chair of the Pastoral Council and was appointed to a Diocesan Commission to implement a new organizational structure by the Bishop of London in 2018. He was born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador and immigrated to London, Ontario in 1999. Andrew attended King’s University College where he completed a BA in Honors Philosophy. He later went on to Wilfrid Laurier University and finished an MBA in 2011. He is currently enrolled in the Chartered Director Program at the Director’s College, a program offered through McMaster University and the Conference Board of Canada. In 1997 Andrew was the skip of the curling team that won the Mary Bruce Memorial Bonspiel at Bally Haly Country Club in St. John’s. He even got a plaque with his name on it. Andrew currently lives in London with his wife, a puppy named Penny, and six children.

Why Governance Guys

Paul and Andrew have a mutual love of/obsession with governance. Yes, it’s a bit odd. But it’s also given them lots to talk about and ponder over. They are both experienced on Boards and have even gone on for advanced education in governance. They are truly governance geeks.

After many, many conversations over a coffee or tea about hot topics for Boards and conundrums they were facing in their work, back in February 2020 (what feels like about a thousand years before the Covid19 pandemic) Paul and Andrew sat down and quantified how much more they needed to learn about governance. It turned out to be a huge amount. Not only that but they also discovered that other people who were either on Boards or who were interested in joining a Board also had a long list of questions about governance. As a result, Paul and Andrew set out to find a proper medium through which they could investigate the art and science of governance and unveil its glorious mysteries to anyone looking to serve an organization or a community. The result, for better or for worse, is The Governance Guys.

The Governance Guys seeks to explore the art and science of governance. Good governance relies on the combination of technical knowledge with soft skills.  The meaning and purpose of governance principles and practices come alive when applied expertise meets the delicate and exciting dance of human interactions.

Our goal is to bring to you the voices of experts in the field to discuss all aspects of governance so that you can perform your role at a high level the next time you take your seat at the boardroom table. To further advance this goal, we will rely on you to offer your feedback, your questions, your criticisms, and your experience so that together we can positively impact our organizations and our communities. Thank you for joining us.