A crisis in the Boardroom

There are two routes a Board can take when a crisis emerges. They can face up and deal with it, or they can fracture and leave. When Strictly Boardroom is advising Boards and their members during tense and difficult periods, it is always clear those that will weather the storm and deliver and those that want to talk about who to blame and those that just leave.

A crisis is immediate, you may get some early tremors, but without warning you can be in the eye of the storm.

Storm

It is not a comfortable place to be. Many questions and thoughts will go through your head. You will worry about the organisation and its reputation and your thoughts will lead you to think about your own reputation and credibility resulting from this.

As a Board Member/Non Executive Director you have been appointed for your expertise and skills in a given area. Your independent oversight and judgement is what is important at a time of a crisis. You need to be assured that the right processes are being applied, that the Board are in control. Remember your role is to protect the organisation

The Board is where the buck stops, and there have been many examples of that recently: Irish Water, Tesco, Co-Operative Bank. It’s not just the big organisations that face a crisis, voluntary and community organisations have their fair share. The Board cannot delegate accountability: public opinion and arm-chair auditors are on the increase, you are at the top of the governance structure. Here are a few pointers to help your Board.

Get in front of it. Those Boards who are seen to be reactive are no longer seen to be exercising their governance responsibility

Don’t let the professionals get out of control. Getting the appropriate external professional support is important, but remember it comes with a hefty bill at the end of the day. Ensure that they are instructed with clarity, that there is one line of communication and a budget is agreed at the beginning.

Risk awareness and management is a whole Board responsibility. You can have the best risk policy framework, but this will not detail all the possible risks that can come your way. The Board should always be horizon scanning and making connections with activities in the sector and how that might impact on your organisation.

Be ready to deal with the crisis. With today’s speed of communication, you no longer have a few days to gather your thoughts and respond. Be ready to respond within the hour. You should have a crisis management policy in place that is reviewed regularly – no-one should be in a position of not knowing what happens next and who is in control.

A united Board will respond well in a crisis. If there are any fractures, conflicts or concerns amongst the Board team, these will seep through the crisis and destabilise the Boards response and position – get your house in order before a crisis hits.

Stakeholder management is extremely important and valuable tool to a Board in a crisis. Ensure you have stakeholders identified and how you engage with them and when.

Having the right skills, with the right behaviors will provide that solid foundation. The strength of your Board will weather the storm.