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Exploring Governance

David Levenson, “The High Performing Boardroom Coach”

Part 2:  Why Exploring Governance?

In my first article in May’s edition of Housing Executive, I wrote that there are millions of people across the globe who impact on citizens’ lives every day by serving as directors on boards.

Well, I am one of those people.  As an executive director and NED, boardroom coach, advisor and governance trainer I have clocked up thousands of hours in boardrooms over the past thirty years.

Multiplying the number of directors by thousands of hours they might spend throughout their careers in board meetings, results in a whole lot of time, energy and expertise which could be harnessed towards solving big global problems.

In short, it is this reservoir of potential which resides with the c. 10,000 social housing board members and what they could be capable of achieving that has drawn me to develop my framework for good to great governance; Ten Steps to Become a High Performing Board© which will be revealed during the Exploring Governance series.

Why are so many boards held back?

During my time spent in boardrooms, I have observed some of the best and occasionally worst examples of corporate governance practice.  The biggest frustrations have usually resulted from interminable discussions about operational matters which should have been dealt with by management, and reams of paper expended on tedious, repetitive and uninformed reports which waste time and inhibit boards from carrying out their four primary duties which are THIS:

  • Take decisions
  • Hold management to account
  • Engage In strategy
  • Seek assurance

Instead, what results from the inertia and mundanity of much of a board’s agenda is that discussions in the boardroom become circuitous, minutiae-focussed and, most of all, uninspiring.

Occasionally, boards will consider their organisation’s direction usually while reviewing the last period’s results and the next period’s targets.  In my experience, board members rarely discuss what is their own “why”, their purpose as a board.  Moreover, board members rarely talk about their effectiveness in the boardroom.

It is good practice for housing association boards to self-evaluate their effectiveness every year and report the key outcomes in their organisation’s annual report.  At least every three years, boards should carry out an externally facilitated or validated evaluation and some will use the triennial evaluation as a guide or benchmark for the following two annual reviews.

However, board evaluations are often treated as tick-box exercises.  Research confirms that board evaluations do not produce useful data and outcomes for boards, so they do not lend themselves to considered analysis and reflection by the board.  They are costly, both in money and resources, for board members and executives who undertake and support them.

As a NED who has been on the receiving end of board evaluation processes, I have often wondered whether there might be a way to take a more outcomes focused approach to measuring board effectiveness.  Housing providers are accustomed to using outcome measures to evaluate the performance of their services and satisfaction levels of their residents.  Why not apply the same approach to board performance, or more appropriately effectiveness, which can then inform boards more forensically about where their gaps are.

Housing provider boards are under more pressures than ever as I outlined in my most recent newsletter for Housing Executive In the Line of Fire.  This is why I have created Board Measures™, a uniquely efficient, outcomes focused approach to measuring the collective effectiveness for boards which incorporates the skills audit for individual board members.

If you would like to know more about how Board Measures can help your boards to navigate the challenges expected of high performing boards, I would love to hear from you.

In Part 3 of Exploring Governance, I will introduce you to the first three of the Ten Steps to Become a High Performing Board which are all about board dynamics.  Do join me next time.

David Levenson is a housing non-executive director, boardroom coach and advisor, and governance trainer. 

David is the creator of Board Measures™ an outcomes focused system for Measuring Board Effectiveness.    He has devised a framework for great governance called Ten Steps to Become a High Performing Board©.           

For more information, contact David on LinkedIn:  here

David Levenson©

July 2023

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