Question: How can the principles of sound governance be applied equally to large corporations or small non-profit organizations, to also help them achieve success?
It’s fascinating to me to reflect on the governance models that are in place in an organization. Sometimes they are firm and long-standing, which can make them even more impenetrable. But, whether entrenched or innovative, all governance models should be reviewed and refreshed at pivotal junctures for any size of organization. Following an election, after a new CEO hire, before a new President is installed – there are natural milestones in an organization where deep reflection will pay dividends. Uncover your direction – there is a way forward and it will be of benefit to the entire organization once you get there. You can’t afford to be wishy-washy in these inquiries. Follow-up on your recommendations, even the difficult ones.
Sometimes it takes sacrifices to get something better. Sometimes people don’t like the message – this is hard work, so reconcile your readiness for change. Don’t just appear to be doing something – be sure you are making progress instead of just sharing some feel-good moments in a workshop. Explore the value of consulting with a specialist who can bring expertise to Leadership Coaching, Sound Governance Facilitation, and Building Effective Teams. Professional facilitators will guide you in exploring your current practices, probe you in areas and push you in others, all toward improving practices at every level.
Once you have set your way forward together, you can proceed with confidence on the items that have been clearly outlined by the specialist. By consulting with a specialist, you have reflected on your practices, you have determined pathways to progress, and you are united in your way forward. The specialist will also have outlined suggestions and measures for you to gauge your progress. What you can count on is a new way of doing business and a new way of reaching success. Be open, honest and transparent in the readiness for change in your organization. Define your commitment to change in front of your peers – the people  you will be working towards change with.
Some of the hot air can be elegant, so don’t be fooled into thinking you are participating in a change process! Engage your team, hire a consultant, and gain traction in meeting your goals.
If you’ve enjoyed this series or have any other topics you’d like to see, please let me know and send me a message.


Question: How can the principles of sound governance be applied equally to large corporations or small non-profit organizations, to also help them achieve success?
My top learnings over five decades of progressive leadership is the importance of understanding the priorities of others around you and reconciling your involvement in the project. When you begin to dig deeper, you can explore your will and desire for change – your interest in doing things differently, your willingness to tackle a change to the foundations of how you do business. This is a robust undertaking. It takes time to explore that deep, and along the way it can uncover things that need to be addressed – which is why people often don’t dig that deep. They stay shallow and polite, but never create the great things that are attainable to them.
Good governance isn’t just having the table populated. It’s a willingness to probe and discover fundamental items that can be set, so that the process towards slow changes can begin. Vigilance and oversight will allow sound governance principles to take hold and your efforts, and those of your entire team, can truly begin to flourish. Observation and recommendations from a specialist can open new possibilities. Maybe the answer lies in a hybrid of many things – maybe it’s the need for an entire new board. Maybe it’s the  process itself, of seeking out willingness and desire for change. Maybe it’s simply learning about what good governance is. Because it is an asset that can make everyone’s life a whole lot better – if everyone is doing their job properly.
Don’t assume that people know what they’re doing – sometimes even those at the top don’t. The art and science of facilitation, the involvement of a specialist for the time that is needed, can uncover the awareness, interest, involvement, and participation levels of the team members, which leads to doing better work. Because from there they start to climb a ladder together and you can feel an emergent commitment to taking their job much more seriously. They begin to be more diligent, aiming to do the right thing instead of the easy one or the politically correct one. They become more ingenious and begin to seek out congruency themselves.
These are processes of good governance. Understand your publics and nurture ongoing relationships with them. Probe the status of those relationships consistently. Develop policy in terms of how specifically you relate with them. Articulate the relationship so everyone is clear – boards are formed for different reasons and become consolidated for different reasons over time. With knowledge in the right hands, they can help guide. How do you know your work is making a difference? You can be a rip-roaring success instead of the mediocrity that unilateral decision-making often results in. Sometimes people need to be more aware of what their role is – which is what Leadership  Coaching, Building Effective Teams and Governance Facilitation is all about.


Question: The importance of strong governance sounds like a requirement only for large corporations. Can the same principles be applied to small business or non-profit organizations, to also help them achieve success?

The fundamentals of sound governance can add value to every initiative where people are coming together to work towards a common goal. Whether it’s a volunteer group fundraising for their small rural hospital, a small trucking company, a single department within a large corporation, or a multi-national enterprise, the very same principles apply. Sound governance leads the team onward, while poor governance sends it floundering. No matter the members of the team, no matter their goal, the same principles for success are available to all.

I believe that the foundation of leadership comes down to a simple template with four pillars: Governance, Strategic Planning, Operations, Product or Service. It’s the nuance of how a team fills in the blanks of this framework that is at the core of an enterprise, with the intention that no matter your role you understand the components. Exploring and declaring a set of standards throughout each component, often with the guidance of an expert facilitator, leads to success. Success itself is measured in a simple equation: profitability plus social good. You have to kick these priorities and thoughts around, to remind yourself of your values as well as your goals. But when you invest the time and energy into the process, you carve a much stronger vision that your team can follow with clarity and confidence.

No matter if the organization is public or private, large or small, old or new, you can delineate it into those four pillars.

1) Governance – Where is the oversight? It’s the owner in a private venture, or a board in the public sector. Think of Syncrude versus the Festival of Trees. In either case, governance is setting the vision, and ensuring you have a solid understanding of the work that you are doing. Governance is The Why.

2) Strategic Planning – Who is looking after the strategic plan? A Superintendent, Executive Director, CEO? This is the person who can deliver on the vision and preferred outcomes, as determined by those at the Governance level. Strategic Planning is The How, and sometimes you don’t have to look further to find the disconnect. Many people start with the CEO, but it truly starts with the ownership pillar, the governance pillar. That’s where the principles are determined – the strategic plan is where it’s applied. Be solid at governance, or it will beget trouble at this second pillar.

3) Operations – These are the people who truly feel the impact of the state of governance and strategic planning. Sometimes they are able to do good work despite inefficiencies in the top two pillars, but they cannot flourish without strength in the pillars above. Strong flow from governance impacts down to create better results in operations.

4) What are your products or services? Is the end result of your work, and the pillars of processes you have in place, to provide a happy event? Is it to churn out a million widgets? With appreciation of developing the top three pillars to be highly effective, you can thrive at this programming step. This is the end goal – success. Monitor it once you have it and you will continue to grow and expand. This entire process is about learning – admitting what you don’t know and perfecting it!