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Board Musings.......

I don’t know about you but I find each week has a bit of a theme, conversations about one subject with totally different people and businesses all circle round one thing and develop my thinking.

Last week it was Boards (the human kind not the wooden kind!) Not surprising really as we had our BECBC AGM and Board Director elections but on top of that a few things really emphasised the importance of a good board for an organisation and the talent pipeline of Directors.

First up was watching the coverage of the Post Office Enquiry. As a CEO I was disappointed and dismayed by the performance of the leaders of that organisation over the last few decades. I watched with incredulity when Alan Cook, MD from 2006, admitted he only learned that the Post Office was bringing prosecutions itself with no oversight from the police or CPS when he read a Computer Weekly article in 2009. He was, however, only one in a succession of leaders who obviously didn’t know their organisation and didn’t prioritise listening to diverse voices to ensure they were well informed.

But we can’t just blame the CEO or MD. If the leader isn’t doing what they should the Board should be catching this. They should be challenging. The fact that they didn’t means the Post Office brand has been (I would say irreparably) damaged and compensation figures way higher than they would have been if the issue had been dealt with openly and transparently when it first arose. That’s without even mentioning the human cost of the whole debacle.

My other musing over boards was a concern that some don’t view the experience gained as a Trustee on a third sector board as being as valuable as being a Board Director on a “traditional business” board. A feeling that, for some, there is a hierarchy of board types which leads to boards like the Post Office one drawing from a limited talent pipeline which could be leading to that lack of challenge. Now I built my board experience in third sector organisations with Centre for Leadership Performance & Copeland Community Fund and learned huge amounts. Was this experience somehow less valuable than sitting on a traditional company board? I don’t believe so and my concern is if we don’t challenge that thinking we’re severely limiting the talent pipeline for our board positions. In a world where we need more diversity on boards to keep our organisations thriving the last thing we should be doing is devaluing valuable board experience of any kind.

The power of a CEO working with a really good board cannot be underestimated and I’m really looking forward to the friendly and respectful challenge that I and Paul, as the new chair of BECBC, will have. Boards really matter so let’s make sure we build strong, diverse pipelines of future Board Directors. It’s something we’ve worked hard on in the last couple of years here at BECBC and was reflected in the applicants we had for the roles.

If you’re interested in being a trustee or board director for third sector organisations in Cumbria get in touch with Cumbria CVS who have third sector organisations looking for Trustees, build your experience while delivering change for our community. I for one will shout loudly to make sure that experience is truly valued as it should be.

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