Anyone who has experience working for corporations, government agencies, and not-for-profits overseen by a board of directors understands just how important a role boards play in the overall health and sustainability of the organization as a whole.
Just as underperforming or uncooperative boards can have a devastating impact on morale and sense of purpose, engaged, effective boards can make an organization more competitive and far-sighted.
Here are three of the most important things that all successful boards have in common:
1. Investment In The Success Of Their Organization
While this issue is found across the corporate world, it is an especially serious concern for charities and not-for-profits, where board members are not always compensated for their work. If board members are not invested in the success of their organization, it can cause major problems. Not only will the board itself be less effective, it can have an impact on the performance of the executive as well.
Successful boards don’t just rubber-stamp the executive’s plans and step in at moments of crisis: they play an active role in planning for the organization’s future and anticipating potential challenges down the road. If the success or failure of your organization isn’t keeping your board members awake at night, that’s a problem.
2. Strong Internal Communications
No board can operate without a steady flow of accurate data about the organization’s performance, the challenges it is facing, and the strategies to further their goals. Doing so means developing strong internal communications protocols that allow board members to build good working relationships with each other and with the executive.
Many of the most successful boards in both the corporate and not-for-profit worlds have adopted board portal software from providers like Aprio to help streamline internal communications. Portal software creates a secure digital platform for sharing and discussing board related documents, which makes it easier for boards to do their work remotely.
3. Clearly Defined Roles
Like the members of any good team, directors on a board work best when they have a clear understanding of their own role. Many common issues that plague underperforming boards are a result of directors who don’t understand the unique roles they and their fellow-members are expected to play, and either overstep their authority or provide insufficient leadership and guidance.
This is especially important in the case of large boards, where strong personalities can easily dominate unless clear board protocols that delineate the responsibilities and obligations of each member.
There are many ways that boards can be dysfunctional, and interpersonal conflict, failure to understand governing documents, and unwillingness to hold the executive accountable are potentially serious issues for boards of all sizes.
Successful boards, on the other hand, often have many of the same characteristics: motivated members who have ready access to the information they need, who communicate effectively with their peers, and who understand their role and the role of their fellow directors.
If your board is struggling to meet performance objectives and find its purpose, motivating directors, improving internal communications, and clarifying roles can go a long way toward bringing the board back on track.