Components of extraordinary governance: Ten areas that are critical to board success, Part 3

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

Ten components of extraordinary governance; and it would likely be a fruitless endeavor to try to rank them in order of importance. Difficult as that would be, any board beginning to work on these areas must start someplace. Perhaps some can be set aside because the board already does a pretty good job with them. The next one is foundational to all the rest, however.

Building trust is a critically important ingredient to success, including trusting relationships both within the organization and with organizations and individuals outside the organization. A culture of accountability, transparency, and integrity is crucial to building that kind of trust. This is more than just a set of rules to follow, it requires that everyone in the organization applies these principles to every decision they make and every action they take.

Who hasn’t sat through at least a few boring, unproductive meetings? Think for a minute about the value of the time of all of the individuals present in any board meeting. It adds up in a hurry. Great meetings are essential to extraordinary governance. Process and agendas need to be efficient yet thorough. Discussion must be focused on the true work of the board, to provide the organization with values, vision, foresight and direction. While some small boards are also tasked with much of the work of the organization, even they must be sure to allocate sufficient time in their meetings to direction and oversight and not get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae.

Exceptional boards must be looking ahead, analyzing future trends and potential problems, and always looking for new opportunities and better ways of accomplishing their mission. The higher the level of excellence anticipated by the board, the higher the level of excellence the organization is likely to achieve. The culture of the board sets the tone for the rest of the organization.

Last, but certainly not least, boards need to build a responsive and accountable partnership with stakeholders. Stakeholder is a rather overused word these days, but it probably best describes the great diversity of groups of people that boards and their organizations interact with. Each organization will have different types of stakeholders; voters, funders, community groups, other organizations with similar goals, etc. These relationships need to be nurtured and grown for the most effective achievement of the mission.

As you begin to apply these critical components of extraordinary governance to your board, watch for future Michigan State University Extension articles which will cover each in greater depth.

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