My Learning Journey in Community Governance – Part 2

“An open reflection from the QUT EMBA program – corporate governance and accountability course”

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Compare your experience of working in your group in the weekly setting with working in your group in the simulation. Based on materials in the course, what was the most important thing you learnt?

My most important takeaways related to the dynamics around the Board table, such as:

1. Minority representation/perspective and tactics to find voice – I found it difficult when working with my group for the ethical dilemma to find my voice. It reminded me of the power imbalance that occurs at the Board table – this was witnessed in the simulation too, when one minority member of board stayed quiet on a matter during simulation and then reflected that he should have said something after the event. It had prompted me to consider diversity around the Board table, and advice I read recently regarding the minimum proportion of membership diversity to deliver genuine value through inclusion. Ruth McGowan, for example, writes that 3 women on a Board acts as a critical tipping point for performance and perception. David Noonan describes 25% representation as the critical mass for a committed minority to shift conventional thinking.

“The key point was to recognise that less than 25% membership will likely silence an under-represented group.”

2. Status Vs power and egotism in the Boardroom – In round 4 of the simulation, all Board Directors were head down whilst financial conversations were being led – I wanted to see what would happen if a Director looked up and encouraged collective sensemaking…“slow down” – “I’m not familiar with that financial ratio” – “what do you mean” and whether ego or fear of failure inhibits ability to achieve informed acceptance of financial report.

3. Risk of misaligned expectations between Board members and/or between Board and sub-committees i.e. individual interpretation of what our simulation Governance sub-committee needed to deliver without developing shared understanding with the Board. In this scenario we made assumptions about what specific elements of governance the Board would or would not connect with.

4. The delicate balance of encouraging disagreement and robust discussion without swinging too far towards a political soapbox – this can lead down political rabbit holes, polarise Boards and significantly disrupt effective decision making. The skill is in the facilitation of the discussion and vote, not avoidance.

All in all, these learnings validated the significant ‘Board Chair as Facilitator’ toolkit I gained through a negotiation skills and strategies lens, such as:

  • Placing boundaries regarding purpose of discussion (What is the actual decision to be made? Clear and concise?)
  • Voting strategies in multi-party negotiations to achieve integrative value e.g. visible straw polls, private voting
  • Directly inviting input from all members around the table, within a set time limit per response to reduce ‘over talkers’ dominating
  • Considering the primary and secondary table negotiations (what is occurring outside the board room that influences in the board room)

The importance of a courageous and effective facilitation toolkit as Chair cannot be underestimated.

Finally, I am inspired in my leadership/Chair learning journey to continue to strengthen my facilitator skills, as per the four key values identified in Lynne Cazaly’s book “Leader at Facilitator”:

Do What Matters | Get it Done | Bring People Together | Use the Ingenuity

How does this compare to your lived experience of community governance?

What elements of my reflection are you curious to hear more about?

Do you need assistance with governance and decision making?

There are some great free resources available from Australian Institute of Company Directors, Institute of Community Directors Australia and Autralian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission, otherwise I can help.

If you liked this article – let me know – like – comment or share!