Attraction. Avoidance. We do both. Constantly and even simultaneously. So do organizations and their governing Boards. Some Boards eagerly move toward that which attracts their attention. This is usually positive, but not always. Some quickly move away from that which they want to avoid. This is positive when it comes to prudent risk management decisions, but it is often unhelpful when the motivation is more emotionally rooted than objectively framed.
Attraction versus Avoidance
Look again at the two words above: …attraction…avoidance…and consider the words within the words. Attraction includes the word ‘traction’. Avoidance includes the word ‘dance’. Both traction and dance involve intentional movement. Both forms of movement affect positive results when appropriate forethought is applied. We want to gain traction…in the right direction and for useful purposes. It is easy to see how ‘attraction’ applies to the tasks of a governing body.
Dance as a metaphor for effective action of a Board is a little more difficult to picture. Let’s give it a try. Ponder the following behaviors possible descriptors of a Board’s engagement:
- “Dancing around the issue”
- “In step with each other”
- “It takes two to tango”
If other phrases like that come to mind, don’t dismiss them. Ask how they apply to the approaches a Board may take to its work together.
One more clarification on ‘avoidance’ — it means “to negate the value or importance of something”. The word ‘void’ is smack-dab in the middle of it. To void something is to make it unessential…inessential. Either way you spell it, be thoughtfully intentional about what to avoid. That means a Board must also develop its emotional intelligence because most avoidance is an emotionally motivated reaction, not an objectively chosen response.
What does all this have to do with governance?
An effective Board prudently avoids that which is not necessary for it to engage in. It resists whatever attraction there is and leaves those items for the staff or others. It also does not avoid any item that it has the power to help the organization gain traction in.
An effective Board regularly assesses and agrees on what it is responsible for, what it is not responsible for, and what it ought to provide for those with responsibility for the latter. No one else can do the job of the Board…and the Board must avoid the jobs that have been assigned to others.
If you are in need of additional perspective on a Board governance philosophy, processes, or practices, don’t waste any more precious time. Contact TurningWest – Your Guide to a healthy Board culture and effective governing processes.