Checklist: Recognising poor governance

Governance expert Ruth Lesirge advises on how to spot the signs of an under-performing board

Ruth Lesirge
Ruth Lesirge

Much is written about good governance and the practices boards of trustees can be expected to embrace. Useful though such advice might be, it often assumes a tacit agreement about the key ingredients of poor governance. Does your board have a collective understanding of what this looks like?

An over-engaged board inevitably fails to keep to a strategic overview of the charity's work. It is often too emotionally enmeshed and meddles in management.

By contrast, trustees can be too distant, with little real knowledge of the charity's business. If this is the case, they will fail to hold the senior executives to account. No chief executive can give their best when trustees are inconsistent or give mixed messages.

Frequently observed markers of ineffective governance are a failure to make decisions, erratic attendance and boring board meetings.

Another marker might be if your meetings pass without insightful questions being raised. And, finally, if the turnover rate of trustees is disproportionately high, this can indicate an unsettled board. Equally, too low a turnover rate might suggest a different kind of problem.

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