Staying Connected to your Role on the Board

Staying Connected to your Role on the Board

Happy New Year! I thought that the first blog of 2018 would be a little different giving you to feel from graduates of the Effective Board Member Programme. Today we hosted our first EBM Connect event which offered graduates of the EBM Programme for footballers and those working in the sport (On The Board), the opportunity to undertake some governance CPD, network with their peers and introduce themselves to organisations who are seeking board appointments.

Overwhelmingly, the event was received well as it allowed graduates to share their experience, hear from industry experts and also sell themselves to organisations who are recruiting board members.

As part of the event, three graduates from the Programme were part of a Q&A session where they were asked questions about their experience so far. They shared about induction, board behaviour, board papers and roles on the board.

I thought it may be pertinent to share with you some real life board experiences as a refresher to those of you who are already on boards and some top tips for those already serving on boards.

The three members of the EBM graduate panel were:

  1. Nathan Talbott who is a qualified solicitor and board member at the Trident Group (housing and charity);
  2. Aoife Mannion who is a defender for Birmingham City Ladies F.C. and board observer at Shropshire FA (county football association) and;
  3. Ben Purkiss – Chair at the Kaleidoscope Plus Group (mental health charity) and Chair of the Professioal Footballers’ Association (players union) Management Committee.

Some of the topics discussed included:

Routes to appointment

Board composition

Board behaviour


Why be a board member?

Some of the learning shared today included:

 a.         Routes to appointment

While many organsations are moving towards open and transparent recruitment processes as outlined in section D of the UK Corporate Governance Code, there are still some sectors and boards where who you know means more than what you are qualified to do or how suitable you would be for that appointment.

On the panel, there were three routes that graduates went through to gain their appointment. One was signposted by EBM as they had the required skills that were missing from the board they now serve on. Another was approached at their EBM graduation by the Chair of the organisation and invited to attend the board as an observer for a series of meetings with a view to possibly being appointed if a vacancy arose. The third graduate was invited by the CEO of an organisation to be a board member rather than going through a traditional route such as application or a nomination committee.

b.        Board composition

Jasper Kain from Football Beyond Borders came to share how his organisation is trying to make a difference to young people by making football a motivating factor in engaging in education. His organisation is currently seeing to recruit a board member. Jasper relayed how they are trying to keep their board size around 8 members to ensure robust decision-making processes can be achieved.

One panel participant shared that they are currently sitting on a committee where there are 16 people charged with governing that organisation and described that it could be very difficult to make decisions. What was encouraging was that graduates were able to recount what they had learnt on the Programme about the ideal size of a board being between 5 and 8. Whilst it is understood that in some sectors, because of the nature of the organisation more members are included on the boards, in these instances companies can consider other ways to carry out their governance function such as having a main board and then executive or other committees that feed into the board.

Another example was shared where a board had lots of accountants but the graduate found that when it came to making decisions about HR or marketing, rather than acknowledge that no one around the table had any professional experience or knowledge in this area, they filled the time just talking about the agenda item rather than making a decision because they were ill informed.

 c.          Board behaviour

What really helped the group was to see what they had learned in theory from the TGF Zoo was recognisable in practice. Panelists were surprised by how much they learnt about board behaviour during the EBM Programme came alive when they sat in the boardroom. They talked about conflicting personalities, passive behavior and a lack of knowledge which had come to the fore in different ways during their time on boards.

Board behaviour is a key component in good governance. If left unidentified or unchallenged it can lead to ineffective boards which can jepordise the long-term success of the company.

d.        Induction

It was clear that different organisations undertake inductions differently depending on maturity, objectives and size. However, all three organisations and everyone at EBM Connect agreed that induction is a key component of being an effective board member.

Panelists had experienced different degrees of induction. One described being given a lot of paperwork as a way of being introduced to the organisation. All were clear that induction should be a process and not an activity that takes place on one day. It should, as they outlined, include meetings with the executive team, site visits and training over a longer period of time and also include the input of the inductee in relation to them identifying their training and development needs.

e.         Why be a board member

Considering why you want to be a board member and the type of board you want to sit on can have a direct impact on your commitment and motivation to keep engage in meetings, training and ambassadorial events as part of your duties. One panelist said that they wanted to “drive change” and there was an overall sentiment of wanting to make a difference. Being clear about what you want to bring to the board and why will drive your commitment, influence and impact on the board you serve on both now and in the future.

During the Q&A session one member of the audience asked the panelists about time commitment. They shared their experience and stressed that when applying you must be able to attend the meetings, training, ambassadorial events and AGMs etc.

So, there you have it. The insights of three board members from three different backgrounds who serve with a diverse range of organisations and it being clear that despite this, the principles of good governance apply across all sectors.

Let’s make 2018 the year of effective boards everywhere!

Until next time…