10 Actions for Boards to Effectively Govern During Times of Crisis
1. Center Your Mission and Values: Prioritising Equity and Inclusion in Decision-Making during Crises
During times of crisis, it's crucial to keep your organisation's mission and values at the forefront of your decision-making process. Prioritising equity and inclusion is essential, even when making quick decisions. Remember to ask who will be impacted and who needs to be involved in the decision-making process. By centering your organisation's mission and values, you can maintain focus on your long-term goals and remain true to your organisation's purpose.
2. Effective Communication: Tips for Board Member
As a board member, it's essential to communicate effectively with your team. One of the key components of effective communication is being responsive. If you receive a high-priority email, reply as soon as possible. Checking in periodically can also help keep you informed and engaged.
While it's important to stay curious and engaged, it's crucial to respect the boundary between management and governance. Asking "what do you need from the board?" can help clarify roles and responsibilities.
When communicating with others, remember to listen actively and seek understanding before jumping in to provide quick solutions. Avoid letting your desire to help drive your decision-making process.
3. Communicate, Communicate
During times of crisis, frequent and open communication is essential. Things are evolving rapidly, so over-communication is almost non-existent. Use whatever communication channels are necessary and available, such as email, Slack, phone calls, online meetings, etc., to stay in touch with each other and leadership.
As a board member, it's important to remain a consistent ambassador of the organisation and its overall communication strategy. Ask staff for key messages to help you stay informed and maintain consistency.
Consider scheduling a standing check-in meeting to ensure everyone is on the same page and to provide a forum for sharing updates and feedback.
If the need for increased communication becomes a burden for the CEO, consider appointing a board member to coordinate board communication.
4. Prioritising Health and Safety
As a board member, it's essential to prioritise the health and safety of everyone involved with your organisation. This includes your staff, clients, volunteers, and fellow board members.
Take time to discuss how the organisation is tending to the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health of your team. Consider implementing policies and procedures that prioritise safety, such as remote work options, flexible scheduling, and mental health resources.
By prioritising health and safety, you can help ensure the well-being of everyone involved with your organisation. This not only promotes a healthy and supportive work environment but also positions your organisation for long-term success.
5. Continue Governing, but understand that it will be different
No matter the circumstances, it's essential for boards to continue playing a clear, governing role. However, it's important to be adaptive when it comes to structure, processes, and roles.
Learning new ways to conduct board business, such as virtual meetings and online voting, can help ensure that your organisation continues to move forward. By leveraging technology, you can keep everyone informed and engaged, even when you can't be in the same room.
Consider activating existing or new ad hoc committees to take on different roles. By leveraging the diverse skills and expertise of your board members, you can ensure that your organisation remains agile and responsive.
By remaining adaptive and open to new ideas, you can help ensure that your organisation continues to thrive, even in challenging times. Don't be afraid to try new things and think outside the box. By doing so, you can position your organisation for long-term success.
6. The Importance of CEO and Board Chair Partnership
The partnership between the CEO and board chair is crucial, especially during challenging times. As the board chair, it's essential to connect regularly with the CEO and ask how you can be of help.
In addition to providing a listening ear, serve as a thought partner to help the CEO weigh options and evaluate scenarios. By working collaboratively, you can help ensure that your organisation remains focused and responsive.
As the board chair, it's also important to lead the board effectively. By keeping the board informed and engaged, you can help ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.
By prioritising the CEO and board chair partnership, you can help ensure that your organisation remains successful during times of crisis. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask how you can be of help. By doing so, you can position your organisation for long-term success.
7. Effective Board Roles and Boundaries
Navigating through a crisis requires a variety of skill sets, which is why having a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds on your board is essential. Flexibility and adaptability are key when it comes to board roles and boundaries.
During times of crisis, you may need to revisit bylaws or call upon HR or communication expertise. By leveraging the diverse skills and expertise of your board members, you can ensure that your organisation remains agile and responsive.
In addition to having a range of skill sets, it's also essential to seek out diverse perspectives. This can help provide a more holistic view of the crisis and ensure that your organisation remains connected to the community it serves.
By remaining flexible and open to new ideas, you can help ensure that your organisation continues to thrive, even in challenging times.
If your board lacks the necessary skill sets, you may need to tap into your professional networks to fill gaps. It's essential to seek out individuals with the expertise and experience needed to address the unique challenges facing your organisation.
However, it's also important to recognise that some board members may have limited availability due to their own capacity and circumstances. By practicing open communication and being clear about your needs, you can ensure that everyone is on the same page.
As a board member, it's important to understand your role and be clear about where you can offer support. This may involve playing a governing role or providing volunteer support, depending on the needs of the organisation.
8. Setup a finance committee or task force
As a board member, it's essential to assess your organisation's risks and consider possible next actions. One way to do this is to activate a finance committee or task force. If you don't already have one, consider establishing a dedicated group to think through financial plans, scenarios, and short-and long-term considerations.
It's important to be mindful of your governance role and leave management decisions to staff. However, by engaging in open communication with the CFO/Finance Director, you can ensure that you're working in a true partnership relationship.
9. Learn and Adapt
During a crisis, it's essential to prioritise learning, grace, adaptability, and empathy. It's not a time to be perfect, but to iterate and take action based on the best information available.
You'll need to be able to respond to short, medium and long-term questions, and because things will keep changing, it's likely that you'll make mistakes. By keeping a spirit of learning and being open to new information, you can adapt to changing circumstances and make better decisions.
Priorities will need to change, and it's essential to be clear when that's the case. By communicating effectively with your team and stakeholders, you can ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and understands the current situation.
10. Anticipate and Embrace Change
During a crisis, it's essential to anticipate that the future for your organisation and board will be different. As a board member, it's important to be intentional about how you're making decisions and to take note of new possibilities or systems that emerge.
By using what you learn, you can inform generative conversations about how your organisation will move forward. It's essential to consider how you can use this new information to help your board work better in the future.
While the future may be different, it's important to recognise that "different" can also lead to a better version of working together long-term. By embracing change and being open to new possibilities, you can position your organisation for long-term success.
Don't be afraid to have generative conversations and consider how you can use what you learn to improve your board's effectiveness. By doing so, you can help ensure that your organization remains responsive, agile, and successful in the future.
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