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Could a football team play well if the quarterback is the only team member who knows the rules of the game?    No way, right?

The same is true for boards and their teamwork –  or governance.  If the board chair is the only team member who is attentive to governance, the board can’t come close to fulfilling its potential.

Governance is a “team” sport – and the entire team needs to be involved in designing the governance playbook.  This means every board needs a governance committee.  Quite frankly, it’s easier to have a governance committee than find another way to ensure its responsibilities are carried out.

In the for-profit world when an employee is hired, she is shown her office, given her electronic devices, passwords and logins and scheduled for orientation and training that may last months.  The company recognizes the investment required to bring the new hire up to speed, support her development and begin realizing a return on the investment.  Without the concerted effort of human resources, the employee’s chances for success and longevity are significantly diminished.

In many ways, a new board member is no different than a new employee.  And yet, often we send a new board member a list of meeting dates, feel very good about providing a 2 hour orientation and leave her to figure it all out.  How successful can she really be?

I think of the Governance Committee as being “human resources” for the board.

Governance Committee members have year-round responsibilities to ensure the board – both as a whole and individual board members – are supported, engaged and have everything they need to fulfill their potential.  The five distinct responsibilities of this important committee include board:

  • Role & responsibilities
  • Composition
  • Knowledge
  • Effectiveness
  • Leadership

Keep in mind, the Governance Committee does not make decisions for the board.  Rather the committee does the prep work to bring options for the governance playbook to the board for discussions and decisions.

Don’t confuse the Governance Committee with an Executive Committee and don’t give the Governance Committee additional responsibilities like bylaws review or the CEO evaluation.
This committee’s sole focus is to:

  • Support the board in creating rules of the game that enhance teamwork
  • Fully engaging each board member so the organization benefits from her wisdom and participation

One of the best, most concise resources detailing the Governance Committee’s work is BoardSource’s Recruiting a Stronger Board PDF. (Members $20 & nonmembers $30)

How knowledgeable is your board team about governance . . .
and how engaged are they in playing this team sport?

Email me at carole@rylanderassociates.com or find more about our services at rylanderassociates.com