Checklist: Trustees' energy - a limited resource

By governance expert Ruth Lesirge

Ruth Lesirge
Ruth Lesirge

One of the intangible assets that trustees contribute is their energy. It is a valuable but limited commodity that needs to be harnessed skilfully. The best interests of beneficiaries and the cause can be served only if trustees are able to give their best: this applies when things are going well but especially in challenging times, when trustee insights and creativity are needed in dealing with options, choices and difficult decisions.

Many boards meet in the evening and most have between four and 10 formal meetings a year. But even if boards meet monthly, the agenda can, in my experience, end up being over-filled, with insufficient differentiation between important and routine business.

The planning of the agenda and the consequent framing of documents varies between organisations, as does the degree of responsibility for these. The chief executive often leads the process and consults the chair fairly late on. By contrast, some boards have the chair and chief executive working together in tandem.

However you do it, the aim must be to enable trustees to give their best at meetings.

How many substantive items of business should there be? My guess is two.

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