While we know that Boards need to focus at a strategic level and leave the operational aspects of service delivery to the CEOs and managers, the community services industry cannot underestimate or overlook the critical importance of good governance.
Along with many of our sector colleagues, I was fortunate to attend the Australian Institute of Company Directors Governance Summit in Sydney this week. Much of the discussion and debate at the summit focused on Commissioner Hayne’s findings from The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.
In listening to the noise surrounding the report it is easy for our sector to point the finger at the major financial institutions for their governance failings. However, it comes as an important reminder to constantly put a mirror to our own governance in the not-for-profit sector – to reflect and scrutinise the culture, accountability, transparency and aims of best practice of our own Boards.
More than ever before the general public, the taxpayer, consumers and clients alike are looking for trust in relationships and trust in the organisations they engage with. Moreover, there is an expectation of accountability and transparency. And rightfully so. We must continually strive for strong, ethical leadership and good governance of our organisations.
I came away from the Governance Summit with some key questions for all of us who sit on or work with Boards as CEOs to reflect upon.
- Are we focussed and busy on the right things at the Board table?
- What is our purpose, are we fit for that purpose and are we meeting that purpose?
- Do we see complaints as an irritation or a gift?
- Do we have robust discussions about what matters?
- Do we measure whether our strategy matters for the people who matter most?
- What are our landmines?
- Are we rewarding for doing the right thing or only for “getting results”?
One of the most engaging presentations at the summit was by Ann Sherry AO who sits on and/or Chairs multiple Boards including Philanthropy Australia, UNICEF Australia, Carnival Australia and is a current Board member of the National Australia Bank (NAB). Ann was brutally frank in her own reflections of the NAB Board. Her advice was to constantly be looking for smoke under the door, be relentlessly curious and impatient about demanding great leadership by the Board and CEO.
At the end of the day, the greater our commitment and focus on good governance, the better the outcomes for those we all work for – those Tasmanians who are experiencing disadvantage and in need of services and support.