Our vision is for board effectiveness reviews to be respected as valuable and essential tools in board development and practice.
It may surprise some board directors and governance observers, but there are no barriers to entry if an individual wants to provide their services as a board reviewer. It makes sense that if the board’s leadership of the organisation needs to be effective then the effectiveness of those chosen to review the board is just as critical.
However, there are no qualifications, experience nor regulated standards of behaviour needed to be a board effectiveness reviewer. It was this rather shocking situation that prompted the creation of The Board Effectiveness Guild.
Members of the Guild collectively agree that if we ask boards to adhere to a set of standards then it is only right that board reviewers should also operate in a similar manner. Without any external code of good practice currently in place for board reviewers to follow, the Guild members have decided to fill the gap themselves. Fundamentally the Guild requires that members adhere to a Code of Practice which defines our values and our way of working. The Guild provides members an opportunity to learn from each other and the Guild will become a voice for the values and standards that we share. The Guild aims to be a repository of thought leadership on board effectiveness reviews, shining a light on best practice.
The founding members have taken time to form the Guild, recognising that such groups need strong alignment of collective values. The Guild aims to be small and select. But it is not a homogeneous group, the individual members have different perspectives and different professional and sector experience, but they align to a common set of values reflected in the Code of Practice.
Why the choosing the right board reviewer matters
The role of the board effectiveness reviewer is an onerous responsibility with, as one of our members commented, “the potential to do more damage than a corporate lawyer!” A poor effectiveness review experience can potentially impact the reputation of the board and the relationships and dynamics which enable its effective operation. A poorly conducted review can also diminish the reputation of the whole board review process. So, how will the Guild affect the performance of its own members?
The role of the board reviewer is comparable to that of mediators and executive coaches. As such, training and qualifications are useful, but they alone are not the answer. What matters is ongoing self-criticism. Just as a coach needs their supervisor, Guild members need peer group challenge to support them, and a clear standard of behaviour as has been outlined in the Guild Code of Practice.
As a group, Guild members are agreed that the best practice in running board effectiveness reviews is to operate with objectivity and independence. The Guild aim to bring their experience – without arrogance – to bear on the needs of each board they review, moving away from simply playing back to the board what it already knows or wants to hear. At every stage they will focus on adding insight and value to enable each board to develop and grow their leadership and their operation.