What a year it’s been. Clients from across a wide range of sectors are hurtling towards the Christmas break, heavy with the impact of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. In health and education especially, boards have worked hard to continue managing governance whilst juggling the demands of a crisis which has delivered very little respite. It has been a year of Herculean challenge.
In the past nine months, we’ve all grown used to working virtually. The business of boards has been carried out while staring at a camera in our laptops, rather than being able to look one another directly in the eye. Some boards have never met as a whole team, with changes to personnel meaning relationships and rapport have had to be built remotely.
Development time has rightly been minimised to make way for the business of managing the on-going crisis. But this hasn’t been without cost. And it can’t continue.
Relationships have been stretched in 2020 and we cannot rely on people’s elasticity any longer. Something will crack, bend or maybe even snap. Slowing down. Getting together (in a Covid-safe way of course). And creating the space needed to reflect, regroup, and consider your next moves have to be priorities for the coming year.
Our leading clients have already worked out how their boards and executives can reconnect in order to stop reacting and start responding.
There is no new normal. There is only this normal. There’s no benefit in waiting for a magical point in time when things will go back to how they were. The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
Now is the time for conscious leadership. Conscious leaders focus on the “we” rather than the “me” and realise that their role is to create a culture of trust, care and expansive influence. We need sustainable new ways of working now which blend the necessary distance with some time to bring us closer together. Literally and figurately.
Boards must scaffold virtual ways of working – which can and have been very effective. We must recognise that as humans, we cannot operate at our best in an entirely virtual way.
The unitary board is a conscious living entity made up of the behaviours, values, and culture of its component parts. To build the unity needed to effectively create and direct strategy, a board must experience its own culture, which can only be side-stepped by virtual working for a finite amount of time before being diluted.
I’m not advocating breaking any rules. All of what I’m suggesting can be done sensibly and safely.
To not get back to some face-to-face discussions will mean your development as a team continuing to stand still. How much longer can you accept that?
The very best-led organisations know that the development and nurturing of the board and its relationships is the fastest route to creating the best response, the more efficient plans, the most effective strategies to deal with what lies ahead.
In a world where we’ve come to prize distance as a short-hand for safety, I’m saying creating some togetherness is not only a risk worth taking, it’s the only course of action if boards are to make progress against the dangers of divergence in 2021.