About Ruth Lesirge: an experienced Third Sector CEO and trustee and previously vice- chair for ACEVO. Ruth has been delivering governance and leadership consultancy for over 10 years and is experienced in coaching for CEO’s and chairs, facilitating workshops, and professional development for leaders. More recently Ruth has sat as part of the ACEVO 2013 Governance Commission and co-founded the Association of Chairs, an organisation of which she is a trustee.
1. The ACEVO Governance Commission report recommends charities have regular formal appraisal procedure for the chair and the board. In what way is this beneficial to their roles?
Some people now refer to appraisals as reviews, which is a term I personally prefer; the former creates a predisposition to view the process as something which can be ‘passed’ or ‘failed’. I regard this as counter-productive.
For the board, the process of reviewing their practice should be experienced as part of an important learning process and a good way to keep their practice fresh.
To be beneficial it is important that any such review is approached with good intentions and good faith. If it is treated as a tick box exercise (which happens in some cases) the process stands little chance of having a positive impact on governance practice.
So it seems to me important that even if board of trustees cannot carry out a comprehensive review of its own effectiveness, its trustees still make time for less developed process, in order to reflect collectively on what they have done well – and what they hope to do better next year.
2. One of the issues identified in the Governance Commission report was that over 50% of respondents felt their organisation had difficulty recruiting trustees from underrepresented backgrounds. Why do you think progress in this area has been slow and what actions can organisations take to address this issue?
There is a lot in the literature about this topic and general agreement that there is a strong business case for ensuring diversity on boards. Every organisation faces its own particular challenges in this regard, so it would be unhelpful to generalise about the reasons many have not achieved a broader spectrum of experience on their boards.
But there are some examples where progress has been made; it is for the sector to look to these and extrapolate what can be learned that they can apply to their own situation.
What is generally true is that such changes can only happen when trustees and staff are committed and invest time and effort.
3. What changes would you like to see in the role of chairs and trustees over the next few years?
I would like to see greater recognition by trustees of their duty to actively support the chair. In my experience, while trustees are often grateful and admire their chair, this does not necessarily translate in to sharing the governance workload.
We would also like to see chairs develop a voice that enables them to participate in debates on governance and organisational effectiveness from their particular perspective.
The Association of Chairs aims to contribute to the sectors growing professionalism with an offer to chairs of support, challenge and the fostering peer networking. We also want to generate new knowledge through research and encourage practical learning and self-regulation.
ACEVO offer a range of publications on the topic of governance as well as the ACEVO Governance Review Service, an online board review tool which will provide a comprehensive look at your boards performance and identify any skills gaps which may exist for more information please contact Services Manager Olabisi Porteous on 0207 0144619
About the Association of Chairs: Launched in October 2013 the Association focuses on supporting individuals who are chairing a not for profit organisation; it is committed to enabling best practice in this role as part of improving governance.
To find out more please visit the Association of Chairs www.associationofchairs.org.uk