Our vision is for board effectiveness reviews to be respected as a valuable and essential tool 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 evaluator. It makes sense that if the board’s leadership of the organisation needs to be effective then the effectiveness of those chosen to evaluate the board is just as critical.
However, there are no qualifications, experience nor regulated standards of behaviour needed to be a board evaluator. 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 evaluators should also operate in a similar manner. Without any external code currently in place for board evaluators 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 evaluation, 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. If this does not take place such groups can be damaged by internal strife. The Guild aims to be small and select. But it is not a homogeneous group, the four individuals 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 effective board evaluators matter
The role of the board evaluator is an onerous responsibility, as Ian has commented, “with the potential to do more damage than a corporate lawyer!” A poorly conducted evaluation experience can potentially impact on the reputation of the board and the relationships and dynamics which enable the effective operation of board. A poorly carried out evaluation can also diminish the reputation of the whole board review process. So, how will the Guild affect the performance of its members?
The role of the board evaluator is comparable to mediators and executive coaches. As such, training and qualifications may be 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 board evaluation 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 evaluate, 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.