Boards recruit, welcome, and orient individuals, but once individuals join a board, they become part of a group. AGB’s recent Board of Directors' Statement on the Fiduciary Duties of Governing Board Members reminds us that the authority for governance resides in the group, not in any individual. The challenge, especially for board chairs, is figuring out how to form a group from an assortment of individuals. And, this challenge can be exacerbated for those boards whose members have short terms of service, such as some public boards.
Highly effective governing boards crack the code on forming a group.
They're intentional about it. These boards recruit board members, in part, for their ability to play well with others. They look for leadership as well as team skills. They structure orientation in a way that begins to build the connective tissue between the new member and the rest of the group. They also develop habits for decision making that take advantage of the range of experience and the diversity of thought represented in the group. In fact, they elevate difference of opinion rather than squelch it because they know that difference, well expressed and considered, will make final decisions stronger.
To be clear, I’m not referring to the cliques that sometimes develop on boards. These small groups can be destructive to board effectiveness, sometimes pitting one group against another, one view against another. Instead, I’m talking about the board as a collective with shared goals and commitment. The actions that arise from the work of such groups can be noteworthy, even transformational.