Great governance - what are you waiting for?

As the old year fades into memory, the Third Sector as a whole realises that the issue of less than great governance is a price that no organisation should be prepared to pay.  In fact, as last year’s very public examples demonstrate, having less than optimum arrangements does organisations no good at all.  It can make them stagnant and internalised and can impede the important work they want and need to carry out on behalf of members, those they represent or those they exist to help.  More than a few organisations, or their controlling boards, suspect that things could be better but haven’t tackled the problem yet.  So what should they be doing right now?

The answer is to agree that this is the year they get it right.  In most cases, all that is required is a review and, potentially, a small refresh or adjustment.  Governance reviews should ideally happen every couple of years but sadly many organisations will admit to a dozen or so years having passed since the last one.  Granted, in some cases, something a little more root and branch will be the conclusion but it’s still no reason to put off starting to look at how things are going.

Unfortunately, results aren’t achieved by wishful thinking.  It takes a serious ‘stand-up-and-be-counted’ moment for a Chief Executive or a board member to insist that the work must start today.  It is so easy to put off in the general busy and worry of day-to-day business.  It is too easy to adopt Scarlett O’Hara’s attitude of ‘I’ll think about it tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow is another day’.  We had plenty of examples, both minor and horrendous, of the results of that attitude last year.  It is worth remembering that members of governing bodies must accept overall responsibility for proper administration of their organisation as well as having a responsibility to act  in the best interests of the organisation at all times.

Starting something that has the potential to create significant change can be very intimidating.  But you might find that it’s not really that bad at all. We also know that having only internal voices in the conversation can limit your thinking.  So just pick up the phone and talk to someone external and completely unbiased who will be able to help you make a start.  

"Susie’s knowledge, her perception and ability to translate into a new Corporate Governance environment which should stand for the next ten years, was exemplary. The Board and Management of FSDF will continue to seek Susie’s advice from time to time on specific issues, but believe that given the quality of work already completed, that will be on rare occasions.”                                                  - Chris Sturman FCILT, FRSA, Chief Executive, Food Storage & Distribution Federation

But we already know that, don't we?

As the Paralympics begin this evening, there have already been many discussions and column inches devoted to the lessons to be learned from the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  In light of the incredible positivity surrounding the activities and efforts of the last few weeks, from sportsmen and volunteers alike, commentators are looking for the knock-on effect which could be applied in fields other than sport, especially the possibilities for business in emulating our medal winners. It would make perfect sense to point to the collective pursuit of excellence as the explanation for the successes on display.  Individual sportsmen working with and for each other and the team as a whole, creating success by solid effort and an unshakable belief in the quest to do better.  The contrast with the superficiality of some aspects of our culture could not be greater but is rarely thrown into such sharp relief.

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Thursday's Magic Moment

As someone who spends their time working to support others in their personal and professional development, I am always thrilled to hear that people have found working with me both helpful and useful. Verbal and written feedback is always gratefully received and I value it highly but yesterday something very special happened.  It was the first time that I have ever seen physical evidence that affirms the value of what I do and what I had written. One of the attendees at my afternoon workshop entered the room and, while she was settling herself down,  took various items out of her bag as she was looking for a pen which had clearly sunk to the bottom.  One of the items which appeared was the most dog-eared copy of my book that I have ever seen.   She told me that she dips into it every day and that it is incredibly useful to her.

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LIVING BY THE GOLDEN RULES

Whether you are looking for a professional, a tradesman, or a particular service provider, the chances are that you will first ask friends and colleagues for recommendations.  The social networks are also full of requests for trusted advisors and ‘proven’ abilities on an endless range of subjects and specialisms. Why does this work?  Because we all believe that anyone with a decent reputation, someone who has delivered excellent service before, will do so again for us.  This person is therefore to be relied upon and will turn up when expected and give us the service we need.

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'The Big Society: Challenges + opportunities for membership organisations' - event report

This blog entry appears as a guest blog for 'Library & Information Update', the CILIP journal. The other night I attended an event jointly offered by the RSA and NCVO, rather interestingly titled “The Big Society:  Challenges and opportunities for membership organisations”.  The speaker list was impressive: Matthew Taylor (Chief Executive of the RSA), Dame Fiona Reynolds (Director General of the National Trust) and  Sir Stuart Etherington (Chief Executive, NCVO).  The event was a sell-out and we are told there was actually a waiting list for seats.

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PROFESSIONALISM & POLITICS STILL DON’T MIX!

I am not a political animal and I promised myself that this election would not appear on these pages but sometimes you just have to admit that enough is enough.  The behaviour of  The Right Honourable Gordon Brown, MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (to give him his full title) demonstrates two professionalism issues very clearly and could not be ignored without a few comments. The first issue is, of course, standards in public life and levels of ‘Trustworthiness’.  This election has thrown up some horrible examples of individuals behaving in an unacceptable way and clearly having learned nothing from the public anger in the recent expenses debacle.  They have demonstrated contempt for the public they are supposed to serve and a belief in their own importance which appears to override any moral constraints which ought to be an integral part of the concept of public service and which seems to have eluded them altogether.  They are, in no particular order:

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So funny but so sad!

When I found this picture recently my first instinct, like yours no doubt, was to laugh uproariously.  It is hilarious.  However, it only takes a split second to then realise that it is one of the saddest and most damning indictments of laziness and total lack of professionalism that I have ever seen.  We definitely have a very long way to go to make professionalism everyone’s preferred option.  But then we’d lose gems like this!  Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place.

 

Applause, choices and cautionary tales

In earlier blog posts I have talked about the choices that organisations must make at the moment, examining their current structures to provide the best possible support to members.  Current discussions about how professional associations and membership organisations can survive in the current climate mean that there has been a slow realisation of the danger presented by several key factors.  The impact of current economic realities on members’ wallets;  the impact of new social media providing alternate communication routes which can bypass formal organisations; the negative impact of very public failures of professional standards; changing demographics; all of these are leaving some organisations exposed to falling membership numbers.


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It's everywhere!

I have to make a confession – I really don’t like tennis. When the adverts for the grunting fraternity start up then it’s time for me to duck for cover and dig out those books I’ve been waiting to read. But anyone can be wrong and I don’t mind admitting that I have had an epiphany. Nothing to do with the game itself, you understand, but the behaviour of the players and their attitude to the umpires and officials.

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