I recently had in interchange with a very experienced member of the board of a well-respected local nonprofit organization. I was suggesting to a group that having a Governance Committee of the board was a best practice. This belief was substantiated for me during my training in board education at BoardSource in December, 2011.
Towards the end of the conversation, this board member said he was skeptical about having a Governance Committee. He said governance had such a negative connotation. He said it sounded punitive. He said it felt like a committee called governance would be looking for all the bad things that an organization might have done.
I thought this was a great teachable moment and took the opportunity to describe the very honorable and positive role that governance plays on a board. After all, governance is what a board does. It is the board’s highest calling to provide oversight, vision and direction, and to insure that the organization has the resources to fulfill its mission. The process of governance insures that an organization is true to its mission and stays on the right path. It is an honor and a privilege to govern. The word should evoke thoughts of best practice and high quality process.
Unfortunately, language has bestowed an unclear connotation to the word governance in some circles. I hope this experienced board member changed his view of what governance really means. I hope he understood the role of the board but just had never called it governance.
And the lesson to be learned from this interchange is that when board members are trained in their roles, they are much better prepared to govern an organization and help it become a high performing organization.