Shared Wisdom for Successfully Leading Organizations

Three experts talk about good board governance and relationships

For this blog post, we have selected three Five Good Ideas sessions that look at good board governance and relationships. Five Good Ideas is Maytree’s lunch-and-learn program, where industry or issue experts discuss practical ideas on key management issues facing non-profit organizations.

JoAnne Doyle: Five Good Ideas about good governance in disruptive times

JoAnne Doyle is the Chief Operating Officer at United Way Greater Toronto. She stresses that good governance is a major driver of organizational success. To achieve the latter, a smart, creative, and hardworking board is necessary, especially during times of change or disruption. Good governance during such times is about positioning your organization against crisis and emerging opportunities.

Here are JoAnne’s five good ideas:

  1. Know your environment and your place in it: Develop a deep understanding of your entire ecosystem.
  2. Step outside the echo chamber: Gather insight from more than management by using third party sources like auditors, accreditors, community consultations, satisfaction surveys, and complaint reports.
  3. Know the rules and play within them: Build a solid understanding of the rules so you’re not caught flat-footed when it really matters.
  4. Recruit true diversity: Bring in diversity that represents a spectrum of cultures, ethnicity, genders, age — but don’t stop there. Diversity of experience and perspective is equally vital to a board’s success.
  5. Start now: The distance between the ideal board and the current state of your governance might seem far — but you don’t have to do it all in a day. The most important thing is that you make a commitment to ongoing board development and that you start right now.

Watch JoAnne’s presentation:

Access more resources here.

Richard Powers: Five Good Ideas about strong governance for strong organizations

Richard Powers is National Academic Director, Directors Education Program and Governance Essentials Program at the Rotman School of Management. In this Five Good Ideas session, Richard talks about how non-profits should deal with a climate of increasing demand for their services and a decline of revenues. He believes that a strong board governance culture is important for an organization’s survival and a must to maintain and grow the organization’s mission.

Here are Richard’s five good ideas:

  1. Embrace increased transparency. Organizations need to be able to respond to requests for information, and to be forthcoming in their dealings with media and donors. This is not about sharing confidential board information.
  2. Be aware of the need for increased accountability. Following Good Idea #1 is the notion that organizations have to be more accountable to their stakeholders. This does not refer only to donors and funders but also to those groups charged with ensuring that the organization operates within the regulations and laws applicable within their sector.
  3. Pay close attention to conflicts of interest. Direct conflicts of interest are usually pretty easy to identify. Indirect conflicts are more difficult. Just as important, the perception of conflicts of interest needs to be addressed with the same rigour.
  4. Determine the skill sets you need. Regardless of the organization, strong governance requires particular skill sets. Representative boards are no exception. Determine what you need and get to it – where there is a will, there is a way.
  5. Go for commitment and engagement. Governance isn’t a hobby; it is hard work and it takes time. So rather than focus on resume building, board members should consider what they are really passionate about and not overextend themselves.

Watch Richard’s presentation:

Access more resources here.

Medhat Mahdy and Tim Penner: Five Good Ideas about successful board-executive director relationships

In their Five Good Ideas session, Medhat Mahdy and Tim Penner emphasize the need to invest time and energy in a successful board-executive director relationship. It is an essential catalyst toward organizational performance and community impact. Medhat and Tim used their experiences as Chair of the Board and President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Toronto, respectively, to lead this session on how to build successful board-executive director relationships.

Here are Medhat and Tim’s five good ideas:

  1. Start with a shared vision and values.
  2. Define the diversity and skills matrix needed to help you achieve your vision, and recruit board members around it.
  3. Invest the time, and open yourself up to the vulnerability needed to build trusting relationships.
  4. Play your positions. Like in any sport, volunteer-staff partnerships work best when team members complement, rather than duplicate, each other.
  5. Measurement matters. Put in place a measurement system that will allow the Board to focus on strategic oversight over time (the big picture, long view) and not get lost in the weeds.

Watch Medhat and Tim’s presentation:

Access more resources here.