Believe you can!

Last time I shared my own shortcomings when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. After reviewing my early progress so far, I know there’s room for improvement. Isn’t there always?

Similarly, if you’re a trustee, this is the point in the year when you and your board should be reflecting on how you can evaluate and review your effectiveness. This is a vital element of good governance and should be part of the culture of your organisation.

Regular evaluation and review are key to the future sustainability of your organisation. But this involves measuring and assessing trustees’ performance, which can be difficult for a number of reasons.

Dont wait until things go wrong – make continual board performance review a key part of your business time and planning

Your board is made up of good people, all volunteers who give up their time up for free.

  • Should they be judged on their performance when recruitment of trustees is already difficult?
  • How will this affect team spirit?
  • What if we open a whole can of worms, and cause division and strife?
  • What if we really haven’t got time?

I know there are potential pitfalls, and I’m not suggesting it will be easy. But if you approach trustee and board evaluation in an open, positive and gradual way, you will reap the rewards.

Start off slowly by first building in time for a regular end of board meeting review. Set aside 10 minutes of your agenda to give yourselves the space to really look at what you’ve achieved. Consider these points:

  • What you have learnt that you didn’t know before?
  • What were the most and the least useful discussion points?
  • How did you perform as a team?
  • What can you do differently next time?

This kind of peer review can help your trustees consider their performance, both individually and as a team, and encourage creative thinking about what they can do differently.

On occasion you may have to challenge difficult behaviour, or a lack of commitment or engagement. These are difficult issues to address. But it doesn’t have to be personal, and you should emphasise the benefits of the process for the organisation as a whole.

If you regularly assess your performance as a board, you’ll discover your strengths and weaknesses, and where you need extra support or training. Some ideas to think about include:

  • A regular skills audit of the board
  • A review of trustees’ performance before re-election
  • A requirement to attend a regular performance review included in the Trustee Code of Conduct (LINK to code of conduct on SCVO website)
  • One-to-one sessions between the chair and individual trustees – formal and informal
  • Exit interviews with departing trustees.

The CASS Business School have produced a great Board Appraisal Good Practice Guide as part of their Building Better Governance programme. It’s got lots of useful practical tips on board and individual performance reviews, their key benefits, and suggested time scales.

Of course, as with all good governance, you shouldn’t wait until things go wrong to introduce a process of continual board performance review. A crisis or conflict is not the best time for this. Instead build it into normal board practice and culture, make it another part of your business that needs time and planning to make sure it happens.

Much like those New Year’s resolutions – you need to keep at them throughout the year!