Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Sound of Music

Well, that's what Bank Holidays are for, aren't they? Watching Julie Andrews while tucked up under a blanket, hearing the rain crash down outside. Bank Holiday Monday in the D-P household was a long, drawn-out affair, with the retirement-to-bed of our lurgy-afflicted children only providing partial relief as we contemplated an evening of really bad television. Salvation came, however, in the form of `Gavin and Stacey' on BBC3, a very dry take on modern British life and manners which I enjoyed enormously. So I managed to end my endurance-test of a day with a smile on my face.

Today (Tuesday) was my Board Meeting. But first up I had a rare morning in the office. My reverie with unread back-issues of Third Sector was interupted by my Director of Income, Clare, who came in to tell me she is leaving. Bit of a shock. Clare has been with us for three and half years and has been a big part of the Speaking Up story. In fact, I pretty much credit her with getting our `earned income' to the level its at. In the absence of a G&T-cooler in the office, I took a short walk, phoned my Chair and rehearsed what I was going to say to the team. And, of course, started thinking about what to do next. Drawing a blank, I decided I was mildly in shock and instead opened my post and checked BBC news online.

Board was the usual mix of brilliant insight... and mind-numbing trips into other peoples' inner worlds. I am sure I am not alone among CEOs in this observation. I am lucky. My Board is just about keeping pace with the rapid development of the organisation.

But I still believe that voluntary sector boards are very odd things. Their ability to add value is so variable and some I have been on can feel like some weird charitable addition to an organisation's activities: `Here are a bunch of random people with a variety of needs - occupy them productively for three hours'.

Despite their shortcomings, Trustees, like medieval kings,seem to have an unchallenged legitimacy however good, bad or indifferent they happen to be. A legitimacy rarely challenged from within the sector. Personally I am a big fan of making Board membership a paid, non Exec role. That way, everyone has to read their papers, show up and demonstrate their value.

Yeh, yeh, I know all that stuff about civic expression and voluntarism spouted by people in comfortable offices in London whose boards are replete with the great and good. But you try getting the best people onto a board of trustees of a charity in Milton Keynes or Harlow. In places like this (I do not speak exclusively of said towns!) you're lucky to find two decent trustees, never mind the five you probably need to be quorate.

But, humour aside, there needs to be a serious discussion, and probably a big study done on the exact value-added by voluntary trustee boards. Because, anecdotally, for every fantastic Board I see - where Trustees offer A1 advice, contacts, challenge and scrutiny - there's several others who,I am convinced, are a drag on their organisations' potential. If this is so, and my hunch is true, the model needs to be looked at. Just like the medieval kings were - in the end.

The day ended with a trip down the pub with about ten of our staff. As all good CEOs do I flashed the cash, bought everyone a drink then decided, after a second of wavering at the exorbitant bill, to pay it myself rather than put it on expenses. It was a good-natured end to a hectic day. I felt mildy distracted by the `What am I going to do next now Clare is going' question - the possibilities are many - but I managed to enjoy the occasion. My trips to pubs are now so occasional that I tend to enjoy them, especially now that so many places have improved their offer and smoking is no longer permitted.

Got back, kids in bed and flashes of guilt at not having seen them. Katy informs me that Ruby is spending tomorrow going to the seaside with her Grandparents then staying at their house overnight. This means I won't see her till Thursday night an I feel a mixture of irrational worry about Ruby being away from us both for a day with elderly grandparents unable to match her pace and a stupid resentment at not having been consulted on a decision I know I would have happily endorsed. A lesson in management for me there I thought as a said "Fantastic!" through gritted teeth.

1 comment:

helen said...

Just to clarify it is of course against 3rd sector expenses policy to pay for alcohol!!