Is your board dysfunctional?

Does your board have directors who trust each other, are committed, are comfortable with conflict, hold each other to account and are focused on results?

Corporate GovernanceIf not, your board is likely to have some degree of dysfunctionality and is possibly in need of an intervention.

I have been working with boards of organisations of all sizes in all sectors for a number of years and most of them exhibit some degree of dysfunctionality,

I use a board evaluation and diagnostic tool based on the book by Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, to discover the level of dysfunctionality within a board.

The foremost dysfunctionality is; Lack of Trust – if there is no trust on the board, directors will:

  • Conceal their weaknesses and mistakes from one another.
  • Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback.
  • Hesitate to offer help outside their own areas of responsibilities.
  • Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them.
  • Fail to recognise and tap into one another’s skills and experiences.
  • Waste time and energy managing their behaviours for effect.
  • Hold grudges.
  • Focus time and energy on politics, not important issues.
  • Dread meetings and find reasons to avoid spending time together.

The next dysfunctionality is; Fear of Conflict, The symptoms of this dysfunctionality in boards is that they will have boring meetings, create environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive and ignore controversial topics that are critical to board success. They will also fail to tap into all the opinions and perspectives of board members and waste time and energy on posturing and interpersonal risk management.

The third dysfunctionality is where a board Fails to Commit to being a Team – this results in:

  • Ambiguity among the board about direction and priorities.
  • Missed opportunities due to excessive analysis and unnecessary delay.
  • A lack of confidence and fear of failure.
  • Revisiting discussions and decisions again and again.
  • Second-guessing among directors.

Dysfunctional boards are unable to create clarity around their direction and priorities and cannot align directors around common objectives. They move forward with hesitation and are unable to learn from mistakes.

Fourth, a board that Avoids Accountability:

  • Creates resentment among directors who have different standards of performance.
  • Encourages mediocrity.
  • Misses deadlines and key deliverables.
  • Places an undue burden on the Chair as the sole source of discipline.
  • Does not ensure poor performers feel the pressure to improve.
  • Does not identify potential problems quickly by questioning each other’s approaches without hesitation.

Finally, if a board is not Focused on Results, the organisation will stagnate or fail to grow, rarely defeat competitors, lose achievement-oriented employees, be easily distracted and encourage individualistic behaviour where board members focus on their own careers and individual goals.

So what should boards be doing?

Directors who can agree with most of the following are likely to be sitting on more effective boards:

  • Board members are clear on what is expected of them.
  • Board meeting agendas are well planned so that the board is able to get through all necessary board business.
  • Most board members come to meetings prepared.
  • Written reports to the board are received well in advance of meetings.
  • All directors participate in important board discussions.
  • Different points of view are encouraged and discussed.
  • All directors support the decisions reached.
  • The board has a plan for the further development of directors.
  • Board meetings are always interesting and frequently fun.

How many of the above statements are you able to agree with?

If you disagree with a number of them, the likelihood is that you are a member of a dysfunctional board … and If your business has a dysfunctional board, it is also likely to be a dysfunctional business.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: