Articles about Board Dynamics
Preventing and De-escalating NFP Dysfunction: The Role of the Chair
A recurring and often distressed request we hear from NFP chairs and board members is “how to prevent and de-escalate dysfunction”. If only a single answer was big enough to accommodate the range of human values, emotions and agendas one might see expressed by members of an NFP board!1 In this article I discuss some principles that might assist an NFP chair to help prevent dysfunction within the NFP. I do not pretend to have all the answers.
Coaches in the Boardroom?
Leading a not-for-profit organisation can be a lonely pursuit but it need not be. Leadership experts say board chairs, non-executive directors and CEOs all need allies to help them monitor and navigate the shifting dynamics of a volunteer board. Increasingly, not-for-profit leaders are looking to organisational or executive coaches to be that thinking partner. And, with good reason. Organisational coaching is a practice that has been proven to increase effectiveness of decision-making, sharpen strategic focus, develop, and encourage constructive board leadership behaviours, and help navigate transitions.
Cultural Intelligence (CQ) for Not-for-Profit Organisations
If your not-for-profit organisation serves a diverse community, has stakeholders (staff, volunteers, donors) who come from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background, or operates in multiple different locations, then cultural intelligence has a direct effect on the success of your programs and services. Culture refers to the total way of life of a group of people. It comprises everything that a group of people thinks, says, does and makes — deposit of knowledge, systems, beliefs, values, roles, art, habits, cuisines, symbols and attitudes.
The Role of the Critical Friend for Directors
I sit on probably as many boards as you do, and I work with about 20 boards each and every month doing our strategy and innovation work. So, after 25 years, I’ve seen a good few in action, warts and all. My life is probably like yours. Life outside the board meeting is busy enough. Like master logisticians, we have to sort out kids, partners and businesses in order just to get to our board meetings.
Dealing with Difficult Directors in your Boardroom
The most effective directors are prepared to challenge, probe and speak their minds but this can sometimes cross the line into bombastic, rude or disparaging behaviour. Difficult directors disrupt boards in every sector – but do not-for-profit (NFP) organisations have more than their fair share? “If we take ‘difficult’ to mean having an oversized ego and focusing more on themselves and their goals than the best interests of stakeholders then I’d be inclined to say that they do,” says Warwick Peel, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Startup Boardroom at the time of writing.
Why Miscommunication Happens Among Directors
In the game Pass the Message, the first person in a group whispers a secret message to the second, who in turn whispers it to the third. This goes on down the chain until the message reaches the last person. More often than not, hilarity ensues when the last person announces the message they received because at this point, the original message already evolved, making it significantly different in amusing ways.
Planning for the Election: Government Relations for Not-for-Profits
Engaging with the government can be a difficult feat for Not-for-Profits, given the pressures of budgets and resources in today’s operating environment. But with the Australian Federal Election scheduled this year, now is a better time than ever to rise to the challenge and start (if you haven’t already) engaging with our nation’s representatives. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you kick-start and manage your organisation’s government engagement efforts for this election year:
Seat Warmers and Saboteurs – Dealing with Difficult Directors
Communication breakdown and relationship failure within a board are a challenge for many organisations. Some of the stories we hear most commonly from directors at Better Boards are related to challenging relationships within the boardroom. Governance is not a solitary activity – it involves sharing and debating ideas, but also cooperation. The capacity of the board to come together for decision-making can have a direct impact on its effectiveness. Sometimes these types of conflict are fleeting, unforeseeable or just a blowing-off of steam, but in other more serious instances, they are the result of an underlying dysfunction in the group such as a poor board culture, or simply an individual board member who is a bad fit for the board or for the role.
Dealing with Disputes in the Boardroom
In accordance with their fiduciary duties to the organisation, directors have a responsibility to implement good governance. The board is expected to operate collegially. Each director brings to the boardroom their own particular skills, knowledge and experience, and has a duty to apply that skills, knowledge and experience. An effective board seeks to stimulate the flow of ideas, identify key issues, consider alternatives and make informed decisions. To do so requires often-vigorous debate, which can sometimes turn into conflict, but there are many more reasons why issues might arise.
What is Your Director Personality?
There is a growing understanding that board behavioural dynamics are a central driver in producing strong organisational outcomes. Every board will demonstrate different behavioural dynamics. These differences are both between boards and within the one board over time. However, boardroom dynamics is often a difficult area for boards to address when they go awry. Four important drivers impact board behavioural dynamics: The specific issues facing the board at the moment; The impact of both the organisational and board cultures; The individual personalities of the chair and the CEO and how their personalities interact; The personalities of the directors and, to a lesser extent, the roles and personalities of the company secretary and members of the senior management team such as the chief financial officer.
Explore Other Authors
Senior Research Fellow @ Australian Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (QUT)
Chief Executive Officer @ Inventium
Chief Executive Officer @ Imperative
Consultant @ NFP Finances
Senior Consultant @ Australian Strategic Services Pty Ltd
Consultant & Facilitator @ Beth McConnell Consulting