How to Assess Board Performance — Part Two

Measuring performance is essential for achieving desired results and maintaining organizational health. In last week’s column, we outlined the importance of board self-assessment (BSA), the four elements of the BoardSource BSA, and how to utilize the BSA to measure performance in your organization.

Today’s column will explore the first two sections of the BoardSource BSA: the people and the culture.

  1. The people section includes:
  • Board composition
  • Board structure
  • Board meetings

Many of our clients spend considerable time and attention on board composition, primarily because of a focus on diversity. They use a board matrix to ensure demographics, expertise, affiliations, geography, leadership styles, and other aspects of diversity are represented.

However, the BSA questions probe further than diversity. It determines whether the board has a shared understanding of the ideal composition for the organization; if the cultivation, recruitment, and onboarding processes align with goals and values; and if the talents and skills of all board members are being utilized.

We often find that many organizations are not fully aligned on board structure, size, duties, and expectations. The questions in the people section can create points of divergence on the board and with the chief executive, which allows for meaningful conversation. For instance, it could be discovered that board members who do not have a shared understanding of expectations and roles become frustrated and disengaged, or that the board’s committee structure is overly complex or not clearly defined.

How the board spends its time in meetings is a critical conversation that often gets overlooked. The BSA encourages board members to consider and challenge assumptions about meetings. For instance, how does the board set the agenda and structure the meeting? Is there adequate time for strategic discussion in meetings? Are policies such as attendance and conflicts of interest followed by all?

  1. The culture section of the BSA focuses on dynamics and relationships

We have worked with organizations that became toxic because of behaviors that went unchecked or expectations that were unclear. The BSA questions in the culture section get to the heart of these issues and challenges board members to be introspective and reflective.

Has the board created conditions that allow for candor, trust, and respect, or are there secretive meetings happening behind closed doors with a handful of people? Are new board members welcomed, mentored, and invited to engage, or are there legacy board members who dominate? Do board members get to know one another outside the boardroom, or do they dial it in for a few meetings each year? Ultimately, is there a culture of inclusion and belonging with accountability and mutual respect?

We have written about the importance of board culture and staff culture in previous columns and believe that this section of the BSA might be the most important. The famous quote attributed to Peter Drucker is that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

So many of the challenges that organizations face go back to two primary relationships — that of the board and chief executive and those among the board members themselves. When those relationships are tended and collegial, the organization can move mountains. When those relationships are fractured and toxic, nothing seems to work.

Next week’s column will dive into the third section of the BSA — the work.

Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO

2022-04-14T17:54:29+00:00April 14th, 2022|