Let’s make no bones about it, the Chair of Board role is a significant commitment. It will take at least 3-4 days per month and a great deal of emotional investment and energy to do well.
It becomes a major part of a Chair’s life, and often in socially-focused organisations a Chair will do it as a volunteer with no financial remuneration.
The Chair of Board must be alert, attuned to the smaller signs & signals, thoughtful and often selfless by holding back their personal views for the greater good of the board and decision-making.
They conduct the orchestra without playing a single note themselves and, when done well, it is a skilful art and a pleasure to observe.
I have the utmost respect for anybody undertaking a Chair of Board role, paid or not.
Of course, every organisation and board room context differ, so nuances and emphasis of the Chair role will vary. However, the Chair will always, to a greater or lesser extent in each area, have five core responsibilities:
When one of these areas is not delivered properly, the board, the leadership of the organisation and the outcomes and organisational purpose will be reduced or held back from reaching their potential.
From my experience, the two areas that Chairs could strive to develop further are their effectiveness in board leadership and running great meetings.
To run great meetings, they need to be focused on strategic and generative discussions that stretch ideas and challenge the executive team to expand their aspirations.
They energise, enthuse and generate innovation and creativity. To have such meetings, Chairs need to organise the work of their board better – particularly the fiduciary, risk management and assurance activities – by pushing these away from meetings into committees or other forums outside of the core board meetings.
The board also needs to be diverse, demonstrate appropriate behaviours and have a range of board members who are horizon scanning and bringing the outside world in.
Improving board leadership is often about succession planning, recruiting and inducting well to make people aware from the outset of the expectations on commitment and performance.
Well run boards have objectives that they are working to and a performance culture, rather than a blame or worse an overly formal risk averse culture.
Unless the Chair is focused on organising the board’s work around running great meetings and ensuring the right mix of board members who have a clear understanding of the contribution required of them, then they are holding the organisation back.
If you’re interested in a board review and development services to give yourself the best chance at finding an enabling Chair, don’t hesitate to contact our Managing Director, Grant Taylor on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07958 690184.
It has been a professional and personal pleasure to work with Grant and Jennifer during a very exciting time of growth for our Charity. The service we received was beyond expectations and excellent in every way. Having an active, engaged, knowledgeable and skilful Board is a vital ingredient to charitable success and we now have that thanks to Peridot. – Cathy Grafton, CEO, The Change Project
Read our report on board governance: The Governance Paradox