Thoughts on Episode 2 – Why Governance Matters

This episode focused on why the work of the board matters. Ultimately, we care about clarifying roles and how decisions are made because we are trying to maximize the impact of board and staff efforts. Having clear expectations on who makes decisions and how can help organizations avoid conflict and focus their efforts on achieving their missions. 

As I dug through the mountains of fan mail that we received this week, I realized that I talked a lot about the principles of good governance but never explicitly stated them. In 2006, a national study on board governance practices in the not-for-profit and voluntary sector was released, in it the honourable Bob Rae, the former premier of Ontario, explained governance principles as:

transparency, clear allocation of roles and responsibilities, financial probity, accountability, and looking at outcomes. Recognize that the principles of good governance apply to all organizations regardless of their size. The structure will have to be tailored to the institution depending on its size, but the principles remain the same (p. 18).

What Andrew and I call the “art and science of good governance” recognizes these principles of good governance but also that no utopian structure exists. The science of good governance commits to the principles Rae explains. The art of governance finds methods of applying these principles that work for your organization. When Andrew and I talked about rubber stamp boards, I overreached saying that there are merits and drawbacks to the rubber stamp approach. The idea that the board wants to allow space for the Executive Director to do their work without interference has merit. You can’t fairly measure someone’s performance unless you have left them some freedom to determine how they will accomplish results. However, the board needs to do its job to set clear goals and policies that protect the organization from harm. Then the board needs to be active in monitoring the organization to ensure that results are achieved, and that goals and policies are updated as the environment evolves. The board needs to be a driver of organizational policies and strategies not simply reactive to the Executive Director’s initiatives. The board is a driver not a passenger. The board should approach its role according to the common governance adage of nose in and fingers out.

Podcast Episode 1: We’re on to something but it’s harder than it looks!

Well our first podcast in in the books, so what have we learned?

First, I think we’ve got something here. Andrew and I have been bouncing governance challenges off each other years and we’ve been making jokes and chirping each other for just as long. Why not bring others into the conversation? We’ve both read extensively on governance, consulted experts and served on boards, but we want to learn how to become even more effective board members. We’re convinced others feel the same way, and that this podcast can fill a void in the podcast world. Our guests will be people who’ve taught us important lessons along the way, and you’ll be able to hear their expertise on your way to work, while exercising or maybe just as you shutdown and reboot after a long day. There’s no utopian governance structure, so the interesting part of this show will be hearing different perspectives on governance challenges and occasionally hearing Andrew and I argue. 

Secondly, its not as easy as it looks. For all the terrible radio banter I’ve despised throughout my life, I now have a greater appreciation of just how hard it is. Andrew and I have something we want to say to our audience, it must be so much harder to just fill time between songs. I listened back to the podcast and I think that’s the first time I’ve said “darn” in my life. You try to be yourself but also not to offend anyone or say anything you’ll regret and sometimes that makes things like “darn” come out.  What’s worse awkward pauses seem to last forever. This experience makes me admire the truly great broadcasters even more.

So, putting these two lessons together, Andrew and I commit to building up this podcast, getting better and more relaxed each week so that we can share our conversation about how board members can make a positive difference in their communities.