A chair’s compass – to help you find your way

Ros OakleyRosalind Oakley is co -founder and interim Executive Director at the Association of Chairs.  She has volunteered for, worked in and provided advice to charities and non profits for 25 years. She will be leading the workshop ‘Effective Chairs’ at our 2014 Trustee Conference.

Have you ever wished that a board’s chair would get a grip? Or perhaps you’re a chair finding that ‘getting a grip’ is easier said than done?

I know both are true for me! I felt privileged to chair Charities Evaluation Services from 2010 to 2013. I found it a rewarding, but challenging task. There were times when I really needed some pointers and words of encouragement.

But when I looked around for support specifically for chairs, I found it thin on the ground. That’s why I got involved in setting up the Association of Chairs. We needed a new organisation. The AoC launched one year ago. In that time we’ve been recruiting members, holding events and writing a new guide for chairs which we’ve called A Chair’s Compass.

My co-founder Ruth Lesirge and I are the co-authors. We’ve worked with dozens of chairs from very different organisations. We’ve heard a wide range of views on what makes a good chair, including views from trustees and chief executives. We’ve also had a great editorial panel to develop ideas with.

Five fatal flaws

In our conversations, we discovered five fatal flaws that appear to recur in boards across different contexts.

1. Lack of leadership

Chairs and boards avoiding rather than facing difficulties and key decisions

2. Unclear purpose

Failing to agree for what and for whom the organisation works

3. Poor teamwork

Trustees not knowing each other well enough to build trust and work cohesively, especially when the going gets tough

4. Destructive relationships

Personal animosities tainting the atmosphere

5. Poor decision-making

Not being persistent in getting to the root of issues

How to navigate the terrain

In A Chair’s Compass we look at how to avoid these by identifying the key things that the chair really needs to focus on – the key compass points to guide the chair. It is not a prescriptive manual – different people will take different routes and have different destinations. It is a guide to help chairs to find and maintain direction, to map the terrain they are likely to encounter, and to provide them with helpful signposts.

Get your copy and tell us what you think

Print copies of The Chairs Compass will be distributed free to AoC members. The guide can also be downloaded for free.

We are very grateful to CCLA, City Bridge Trust and the Lord Mayors Charity Leadership programme whose support has made it possible for us to produce A Chair’s Compass.

Want to find out more?

Come and talk to us at our Leeds launch, or come along to our workshop at this year’s NCVO trustee conference. No matter whether you are thriving or surviving, new or experienced, we think you’ll find plenty to help you on your way.

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