Components of extraordinary governance: Ten areas that are critical to board success, Part 2

A compilation of ten areas of focus that successful boards must invest time in to develop.

Part one of Components of Extraordinary Governance: Ten Areas that are Critical to Board Success included the list of the ten components, and a brief overview of the first four. Here in part two of this Michigan State University Extension article series, we’ll talk about two more, the board functioning as a body and policy as their primary tool to get things done.

Boards are made up of people who have differences. If all were the same, you wouldn’t need a board, just one person would suffice. It is important that the work of the board, the deliberation and decision-making, include consideration of the diverse possibilities and honest discussion of the pros and cons of any possible outcomes. Once that process is complete, however, it is essential that the board act as one to accomplish the mission. Failure to do so often results in future conflict among board members, confusion among staff about the direction of the organization, and loss of community trust in both the board and the organization.

The list of the ten components in part one, calls this the Board as a Body – a thoughtful, intentional plan to govern together. That plan needs to include a number of elements. Those elements include: committee structure and function, continuing education for the board members, structure, role of the chair, principles that will govern the board members’ interactions, self-reflection and evaluation of the board’s success, board selection processes, reward structures, working as one unit, having an attitude of constructive engagement, planned revitalization and recruiting, and a plan for building the relationships and trust that are vital to getting any group of individuals to work together effectively as a team. As hard as it is to imagine in today’s divisive political climate, I’ve heard stories of past Michigan legislatures who built such relationships so effectively they were able to debate their respective principles and solutions during session, and then set that aside to dine together and enjoy discussion of family and other experiences.

Policy is the board’s primary tool for accomplishing the mission, especially when the organization has staff. Clear policy, written with careful consideration of as much fact and potential consequences as possible, gives all the benefit of clear understanding of how the organization works together to achieve the mission. Good policy guides the actions of the staff, and ultimately results in achievement of the organization’s mission.

In part three of Components of extraordinary governance: Ten areas that are critical to board success, we’ll cover the remaining four characteristics.

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