Happy relations? Effective partnerships between trustees and management

On 18 November 2014, NPC and the Clothworkers’ Company held a seminar on how to ensure effective partnerships between trustees and senior management.

The board of trustees must look at how they can best support senior management through good times and bad. Examples of great partnerships in the sector certainly do exist, but there are also stories of breakdowns in relations between chairs and chief executives; boards feeling that they do not always know the full picture; staff saying boards are not engaged with their work; and management teams seeing the board as an obstacle to progress. A balance needs to be struck so that relations are neither too close nor too far apart.

This briefing provides guidance for trustees and senior management to ensure that an effective relationship is built and maintained, touching on roles and responsibilities, boundaries and expectations, communication and power, and providing two case studies that draw on these themes.

The seminar was chaired by Dan Corry, Chief Executive at NPC. The panellists focused on the following themes:

Mike Hudson (Director, Compass Partnership) discussed the roles of governance and management, and the expectations of both parties, drawing on a previous survey of the top 500 charities. (Delivering Effective Governance, Directory of Social Change, 2012)

Penelope Gibbs (Director, Transform Justice; Fellow, Clore Social Leadership Programme) focused on the dynamic between trustees and senior management using qualitative research undertaken during her studies as a Clore Social Fellow.

James Lambert (Chairman, IntoUniversity) presented a case study about how the roles and relationships of IntoUniversity’s board of trustees and senior management have developed over time.

Judith Miller (Partner, Sayer Vincent; Treasurer, the Small Charities Coalition; Trustee, Life Opportunities Trust) shared her experiences as both a trustee and treasurer and how this twin role allows her to support trustees and senior management with interpreting financial data, enabling better communication and decision making.