Most of the Boards we work with mention the word ‘trust’ at some point. Either trust has been lost during a dispute or difficult meeting, or trust has never been built up in the first place. Here are our top 6 tips for developing and maintaining trust:
- Induction – when a new Board member joins the team, it’s important that relationships are developed with all of their colleagues as soon as possible. Creating some social time before, during or after their first Board meeting can be helpful to allow for casual conversation, perhaps over a meal.
- Board Away Days are really valuable opportunities for the Board to step back, reflect, take stock, and plan for the future. They’re also a perfect opportunity for a more relaxed and informal way of working, with small groups undertaking useful thinking tasks, and hopefully having some fun!
- Performance reports from management should bring a clear and complete picture to the Board of what’s going well, what’s not going so well, and any significant mistakes, successes or emerging risks. Too often we hear Boards saying ‘How can we know what we don’t know?’ Managers should share any concerns with the Board and use their expertise as part of the solution, rather than keeping problems hidden in the hope they will be solved before the Board finds out! Admitting mistakes (as long as mistakes aren’t repeated) can actually build trust.
- Focus on delivering results in the agreed priority areas, and keep investing time and other resources on learning and development to further improve performance. Ensure a culture of accountability is created, so that everyone takes responsibility for achieving in their role and reporting results regularly.
- Listen to others first, and really listen. Seek to understand the viewpoints of others before explaining your own views on the issue.
Review, review, review! The Board should reflect at least once a year on how well it is fulfilling its role. Every 3 years, the Board should commission an independent external specialist to review its effectiveness and help to develop a Governance Action Plan for the next year. The Chair should, at least annually, have an individual review conversation with each Board member – we call it a ‘Review of Contribution’. Some of our clients are now asking us to support them with a 360° review process, where each Board member (and sometimes senior management) provides individual feedback to each of their colleagues. Anything which supports the Board’s continual learning and development is a worthwhile investment.
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