Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Trustees’ week – an opportunity to generate fear or enthuse?

Caroline Cook is the PQASSO Programme Manager at NCVO and offers some thoughts about how Trustees’ Week could be a prompt to use PQASSO. Caroline was previously a consultant for many years working with a variety of Boards around governance review, strategy and sustainability.
Trustees’ week – an opportunity to generate fear or enthuse?
2-8th November
Reinvigorating your Board
At its most basic there are two keys ways to generate change or activity amongst trustees – by instilling fear or building enthusiasm. Fear works well to remind what can happen if Boards aren’t functioning as they should be or where they’re not clear about their vital role in the organisation. But, it can also lead to knee-jerk reactions that mean things are not well thought through or that policies change but not the practice of how they’re implemented. Risk management becomes about a document, rather than an approach that builds the ability of the Board to make good decisions and to create an organisation that is able to look ahead, be flexible and respond to events or threats as they happen.
We’re all familiar with the drip-feeding of disaster stories and reports of bad practice amongst charities, so for a change, why not use Trustees Week to generate new interest, excitement and discussion about how trustees and the Board could do things differently? Enthusing tends to lead to a stronger Board and more effective individual trustees.
Ideas for generating enthusiasm
Trustees are generally good people who want to make a difference. Help them to be excited about being a trustee, whether they’ve been around for a while or are new to the role.
Remind them how vital their role is and thank them for giving their time
Reconnect the trustee role with the end experience of the service user or beneficiary
Generate discussion about organisational and Board culture
Ask the question ‘how could the Board do things differently?’
Offer PQASSO quality area 2 ‘governance’ as a tool to help review all aspects of how the Board operates

Remind them how vital their role is and thank them for giving their time
Organisations can lose sight of the importance of the Board’s leadership role and that trustees are an asset to be invested in. Let trustees know they’re appreciated. Say thank you.

Reconnect the trustee role with the end experience of the service user or beneficiary
It’s easy for a trustee to get caught up in being part of the Board, coming to meetings and losing sight of the original reason they decided to become a trustee with your particular organisation. Help them to reconnect with their original passion for the work, the belief that things can be different, that led them to come to work with you, rather than with any of the hundreds of other charities in their local area. Help the Board to really understand how the needs of users (whoever they might be) need to drive planning; how impact is created when actions are delivered against a very clear vision; how monitoring and evaluation help ensure you’re on track.
Generate discussion about organisational and Board culture
In my experience people get excited about the idea of culture. It’s an intriguing thing – sort of slippery and hard to get hold of, but key to everything about how an organisation and a Board operates. A culture that encourages review and reflection is one more able to change and adapt. An organisation that can change and adapt is giving itself the best chance to be sustainable and survive the many challenges that are out there.
Ask the question ‘are there things that the Board could do differently?’
How does the Board currently review itself and how it operates? How about asking an external person to help with this? At the simplest level, could you encourage trustees in sit in a different chair around the table at the next Board meeting? A simple way to demonstrate how quickly habits and patterns become established, which can lead to complacency or a lack of creativity. How could you help generate a curiosity amongst trustees about how and why they do things as they do?
In my experience when Boards promote the fact that it’s an exciting time of review or change, the message is clear that this is a with-it, forward-thinking board that is open to change, and that appeals to potential new trustees.

Offer PQASSO quality area 2 ‘governance’ as a tool to help review all aspects of how the Board operates
All of this of course leads to the question of how to do these things. One way that can work really well is to copy the PQASSO ‘governance’ quality area from the PQASSO Workpack and to suggest that the Board use this as a framework to help them review all aspects of how they operate.
‘The Board ensures that the organisation is governed effectively and responsibly. It demonstrates accountability to stakeholders, and has the skills and information it needs to achieve the organisation’s mission and uphold its values.’
This standard and the indicators which flow from it create the basis for the Board to reflect and self-assess itself, and to identify what needs to be happening differently for it to be the most effective it can. Also, to ensure its governance is legally compliant, safe and fit for purpose. And most importantly, that trustees are re-enthused about their role and feel excited about coming to Board meetings. If your trustees aren’t feeling this, then there’s work to be done.

For information about PQASSO and how it could help your Board
Trustees’ Week 2015 (2 – 8 November) celebrates the role of trustees and champions best practice in governance.

(Source: NCVO)

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