Board committee leadership requires experience, dedication, and diplomacy. A committee chair role can be time-consuming, requiring additional commitment to plan and prepare for meetings to give the role the attention it deserves to steer outcomes for a board..
Influential board committee leaders are responsible for a wide range of elements; therefore, it is essential for those who serve in the position to be accountable and bring a high level of experience to the table.
In this article, we break down what is required to be effective as a leader of a board committee.
Does the Committee Chair ensure that the board committee is used effectively to support the work of the Board?
Chairing a committee requires diplomacy, resilience, and leadership skills of a high level to be effective. The chair must ensure that the committee is managed well, that recommendations to the board are well founded and relevant decisions are made and carried out. It is a task requiring a high level of skill, judgement and commitment.
A close link needs to be maintained between the board’s work and that of each committee. Like many other parts of an organisations, committees and boards can become siloed and somewhat disconnected over time. This makes it important to mitigate the risk of siloes being created with good governance practices and the appropriate processes to ensure transparency and accountability is front of mind.
Are committee chairs effective in their roles?
For the committee chair to be effective in their role, they must ensure they are getting the most from all their committee members and out of the members of management who serve the committee. They need to build and lead their committee over time to be successful in the committee’s endeavours.
The role requires regularly reviewing the committee’s performance, identifying and managing the processes needed to implement, and acquiring new skills and talent when relevant.
Committee chairs must be effective leaders, which can impact how time in their role on the board is allocated, affecting productivity and resources. A chair should balance the needs of the board and day-to-day board management.
It is essential for those who serve in the position of committee chair to display excellent leadership qualities and communicate effectively. Facilitation skills are also necessary, so all committee members and the executives who serve the committee participate appropriately and meetings run smoothly.
Does the Committee Chair ensure that the committee has the right mix of skills and experiences on the committee?
Chairs must be able to get the most out of the skills and talent of committee members in order to deliver on the committee’s objectives appropriately.
A committee chair must bring talented, diverse, and experienced people to the committee, ensuring the committee has the right mix of skills and talent to optimise the committee’s purpose and decision-making outcomes.
If a Committee Chair thinks that some additional skills and talent are needed on the committee in order for it to fulfil its mandate the committee chair, in consultation with the board chair and other committee members, might choose to co-opt an external expert on to the committee to fill any skill gaps.
Succession planning for the committee chair and its members is important to the committee’s health and sustainability. Therefore establishing the appropriate review mechanisms for members to be replaced by others with complementary talent and skills allows committees to continue operation with minimal disruption.
Do Committee Chairs (and their committee members) Have Constructive Working Relationships with Relevant Members of Management?
Committee chairs must remember that they are responsible to the board for their committee and its work, so constructive and meaningful relationships with members of management are necessary.
The committee chair’s responsibility is to create an environment that generates balanced discussion and works towards the best outcome. They must therefore foster deep relationships with the members and management. Creating an environment where committee members and management can have open dialogue is key, as it enhances the likelihood of success.
With this in mind, the chair and committee members should be bold in addressing management. The chair must take responsibility for this by steering dialogue in the right direction and keeping working relationships on track between stakeholders.
With few exceptions, committees have little power or authority, so they must be respectful to work toward an outcome. If an issue falls outside the committee’s charge, the chair’s responsibility is to refer it back to the board, to a more appropriate committee or to management.
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Does the Committee Chair ensure a regular review of the Committee’s effectiveness?
To adhere to good governance and organisational success, reviewing the effectiveness of the committee, the committee chair, and its members is essential.
The review process should seek to analyse findings and results from the committee to present to the board and relevant stakeholders, using any feedback provided to implement relevant changes and improvements accordingly.
An effective committee chair recognises the need for continuous improvement and, therefore, should allow themselves to be reviewed by their peers for the overall success of the committee. The objective is to reach the desired outcome, so having an appropriate process for committee chairs to be critiqued on their performance is a must.
The trickle-down benefit of good leadership
It’s important to ensure that the board has the most relevant committees concerning the organisation’s purpose, strategy, and operations. Too many or too few committees can be problematic which is why having the most appropriate committees for the given organisation is essential.
It is critical to have an experienced and highly-skilled chair behind the wheel, driving outcomes and ensuring they are getting the best out of their committee members. It requires a diplomatic, highly organised, and effective leader for the role.
Committee chairs need to realise the potential in others when appointing committee members and bring external talent when necessary to reach the desired outcome efficiently and effectively.
Importantly, committees need to regularly be reviewed for their effectiveness in how it is being chaired, the members involved, and the direction in which the committee is heading, so continuous improvement is critical.
Are you looking to understand how to appoint and structure your committee? If you need assistance achieving best-practice performance evaluations for your board or committee, speak to the Board Survey team to learn more.