Exemplary Boards are robust, high functioning work groups whose members trust, challenge and collaborate healthily in identifying and delivering their strategy and handling challenges as things progress.
Good governance helps but is not the whole story or even the longest chapter in the story. To fulfil their mission, successful Boards have to be effective well-integrated teams. Becoming that needs initial attention to team construction and alignment, but also continuing review of performance and behaviour as they move through different stages of team and business development.
It can be challenging to know if a Board is functioning at its best and how to keep it there. Boards are complex bodies typically, a group of highly experienced and expert executives and non-executives with strong egos and competitive instincts. Not always easy to control!
The collective values and attitudes of the Directors are often good predictors of success. That’s where Board evaluation comes in. It identifies what’s driving the group, how it’s functioning, interpersonal and leadership strengths and weaknesses, as well as blind spots and areas for improvement.
Board assessment typically involves a series of interviews, surveys and observations with directors and key external stakeholders about the health and functioning of the team. Results are used to develop plans for improving effectiveness.
The starting point is often a review of values and attitudes to identify how well members feel things are going and whether the interpersonal climate is healthy and well-aligned. Critical areas! This is followed by an assessment of how effective the team is in getting things done.
Assessing team maturity, the quality of leadership and peer group relationships are an important part of the process too, as is diagnosing the team’s stage of development behaviourally. Forming, norming, storming and performing is one paradigm describing the four stages of psychological development a team goes through as they work on a project overcome challenges, learn to work together and eventually focus on accomplishing a shared goal.
Answers to carefully designed questions, whether delivered by interview or survey, are recorded to produce a diagnosis of team health, which is then shared and debated by the entire group. This sets up the team to agree objectives against which it’s progress can be discussed at future sessions.
Key benefits of Board assessment include delivering improved understanding and trust between team members as well as better communication, increased accountability and a stronger sense of teamwork. It identifies underlying conflicts or ethical issues affecting performance.
An essential part of modern corporate governance, it goes beyond appropriate but compliance-driven preoccupations with statute and governance. It helps leaders and members develop and embed agreed behavioural norms and values and refocus team behaviours in designing and delivering their strategy.
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Article written by Robert Irving.