Executives and non-executives both contribute to board effectiveness. But interestingly, the fact that a group of people with spelt out roles come together to achieve a common purpose, often with sincerity, does not mean a board will automatically run smoothly. That is why both the executive and non-executive arms of the boardroom must align to get things done faster and easier.
There are tons of writings on the responsibilities of executives and non-executives on boards, especially regarding governance and expectations of each side. However, little has been said about implementing this in the real world. As much as the bigger goal is board efficiency, it is practically impossible without first achieving board effectiveness.
So, the big question is, how do we ensure the executives and non-executives align in the boardroom? Here are some answers:
The Board must understand its roles.
Every Board has three primary roles. The first is to direct the organisation effectively. Any organisation without the right direction will most likely derail in the long run. The second role is to protect the organisation. Literally or not, every organisation deserves the proper protection to get to the finishing line. Lastly, the Board must enable the work of the organisation. The organisation doesn’t run by itself; this group of select people are expected to keep things ticking.
These three roles define the direction of any board towards the set goal within the set period. Protection is achieved by implementing operational boundaries that ensure no one crosses their lines. And enabling the organisation entails the board members leveraging every level of their influence to ensure its efforts are visible.
The Executive must understand its roles.
The other side of the divide is where we have the Executive. Like the Board, the executives have three major roles.
The first is leadership. The organisation requires sound leadership that drives things by making the right decisions on how the staff should get the job done.
The next role is management. The Executive must adequately manage the organisation, guiding the staff on how to achieve the set goals.
The third and last role is the accomplishment of set plans for the organisation. This entails working towards the already outlined goals and leveraging every management and leadership tool at their disposal to realise this.
Board effectiveness comes after alignment.
As mentioned earlier, there is no board effectiveness without alignment. It is not strange to see some organisations put the cart before the horse, leading to zero board effectiveness and several problems within the organisation. An organisation will only be effective if there is an alignment between the roles of the Board and the Executive.
How do we achieve alignment? The first step is to ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them and when they have to come in. In essence, there must be clarity in the roles of each side of the boardroom. More than knowing their roles, both sides must ensure discipline to adhere to their roles and deliver as expected.
The relationship between the Board and the Executive means the ineffectiveness of one side will affect the other. Therefore, both sides must always be in their best form. It is the only way to ensure board effectiveness and, ultimately, the success of any organisation.