Much like the terrible twos and toddler tantrums, you sometimes just can’t avoid disagreements and conflicts of interest on your board. After all, trustees tend to be passionate and energetic people who don’t always agree.

I’ve looked at how to deal with conflicts of interest proactively in an earlier blog, and repeat the message from that: prevention is always better than cure. So what can you do to avoid the naughty step?

Well, a trustee should always keep in mind why they’re on the board.

You’re there to serve the interests of your organisation’s beneficiaries and service users. You’re not there to follow your own agenda and you must be able to rise above any differences in order to work for in the best interests of the organisation.

That’s why it’s so important to be clear about expectations, and roles and responsibilities.

As a trustee you have specific legal responsibilities which mean that you can be held legally liable if things go wrong.

You’re all collectively accountable for the decisions you make at meetings, and you must make sure your organisation constantly evolves and improves.

It’s not just your treasurer who is responsible for the accounts. Every trustee need to understand what’s happening financially with their organisation. So if there’s anything you don’t understand – get someone to explain it to you. You’re there to ask the difficult questions!

Remember there is a difference between governance and day-to-day operational management. Establish firm boundaries with staff, make sure you have a code of conduct (download sample in Word format), a conflict of interest policy and a register of interests (download sample). This will all help your trustees identify any problems and deal with them before they become too difficult to solve.

People don’t tend to join boards because they love governance. Instead it’s because they believe in a cause and want to do some good. But when things go wrong, these aims can get forgotten.

Good governance is vital for your organisation’s long term future. It’s important to funders, the general public, your beneficiaries and our sector. Somake sure you have the toolsto prevent any potential tussles and tantrums.