360° Review at Board Level


Of all the many Boards we’ve worked with over the past 20 years, by far the most effective are the ones that invest time and energy in learning, both individually and collectively as a team.  They’re passionately committed to improving their performance, knowing that their enthusiasm for learning and development will rub off on others in the organisation and create a really healthy culture of learning and continual improvement.

What should a Board Review include?

Whether you’re on the Board of a company, a public body or a charity, it’s expected these days that review processes will be developed and implemented regularly, including:

  • Self-reflection by the Board at least annually, perhaps in a workshop at an Away Day – what aspects of our work are we doing really well?  What aspects do we need to further improve?  What actions should be included this year in our Governance Action Plan?
  • Self-reflection by the committees of the Board at least annually, in the same way.
  • Individual review at least annually for each member of the Board (including the Chair), conducted by the Chair of the Board (or Vice Chair in the case of the Chair’s review), the Chair and Vice Chair, or by the whole Board and the Chief Executive / Managing Director, using 360° review.
  • It’s also useful to, at least a few times per year, review the effectiveness of Board meetings.
  • At least every 3 years, Boards are now expected to engage an external specialist to carry out an independent evaluation of governance and Board effectiveness (and Leading Governance often provides these services).

We find that these review processes often give a boost to motivation in the boardroom, and  support the on-going development of governance, and the skills, experience and behaviours the Board needs to provide effective leadership and governance for great outcomes.  They renew the commitment to having the breadth and depth of skills required to lead and govern effectively.  They support assessment of current skill levels to support planning for further Board development, training and recruitment.

In the past year, we’ve had an increase in clients asking for support with 360° review of each Board member, recognising that it can be very helpful to get feedback from all Board members and the CEO/MD, rather than relying only on the views of the Chair of the Board.  The steps we’ve used to support the 360°reviews is as follows:

  1. We agree the objectives and timescales of the process.
  2. We develop and agree the list of competencies to be assessed for each Board member (based on the priorities in the Strategic Plan, the key risks, and the role of each Board member).
  3. We issue each Board member and the CEO/MD with a Competency Assessment Form for each of their Board colleagues, and ask them to give honest and respectful feedback (both positive and constructive improvement suggestions) on each Form.  Numerical scores are also requested for each competency (marks out of 10).
  4. Leading Governance collates the feedback for each Board member, and provides both verbal and written feedback to each person, with comments from colleagues anonymised.  We also edit the language to ensure that it’s constructive, without changing the key messages.  We provide a summary report to the Board on the key themes, without revealing anything about the feedback to any individuals, and make recommendations for action.
  5. Each member of the Board decides whether or not they’re prepared to share their written feedback report with all Board members (it’s best for overall Board learning if everyone does this).
  6. The Board agrees a Governance Action Plan, which may include Board member recruitment, individual or collective training and development, or changes in boardroom processes.

Early in the process, we provide our clients with written guidance on giving feedback, to seek to ensure that everyone feels their feedback is useful and constructive.  It’s important that assessments and comments are made with positive intent – for the greater good of the organisation as a whole.  In that way, it can make a really useful contribution to the development of a learning culture, from the boardroom to every part of the organisation.

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