It’s an unfortunate reality. The people governing and directing organisations are not allocating themselves budget to learning and development – either individually or as a group. I’m also learning that many boards don’t have any requirements for directors to allocate a certain amount of time each year to continuous learning.
There are many factors that play in to this reality. Primarily it comes down to resources; or lack there-of. I get that. I really do. I’ve sat on the board of many not-for-profits and other resource-poor organisations.
What this means is that the burden for driving and funding director development sits with the individual directors. Often times these same people are also unable to fund formal education; they are volunteer directors with a family and life outside of the boardroom that takes precedence with the household budget.
Where to from here?
Well, it’s time to get creative!
Ask / suggest a budget line be developed
It’s always worth having the conversation – about board and director development – as a board around budget time. Even a relatively small amount is a positive move.
Not only does having the conversation help reinforce a culture of continuous learning, setting aside a small amount of money (if you can) really reinforces the message.
If your organisation can’t afford to allocate a monetary budget, consider setting a time budget for director development. Consider allocating something like 30 minutes at every second board meeting to director development activities.
This time could be used for reflecting on recent updates in each board members’ professional field, having a board member talk about any self-funded education they have recently attended or a relevant article they have read, watching a short video or TED talk and then discussing the learnings, or talking through a recent, significant and relevant news story and what can be learnt from it.
Seek out and apply for grants
There are many organisations that provide various grants to be used for up-skilling the board or individual board members.
In previous years, I’ve seen grants offered by the Australian Sports Commission, local state government sport and recreation departments, and others – like us – that offer grants from time to time.
Largely these grants are available to certain cohorts (e.g. women only, or organisations in certain industries); however, I encourage you to be on the lookout for any opportunities available.
Ask your current suppliers / providers for director updates / briefings
If your organisation utilises the services of a lawyer or law firm, a HR advisor, an accountant or accounting / auditing firm, or something similar, ask your key contact if they (or someone else at the organisation) is willing and able to provide a short (30 to 60 minute) briefing for the board.
Many firms often provide these value-add activities for their clients so it’s worth asking.
At the very least, they can probably provide the board with their latest report or white paper that the board members can read and discuss as a group.
Have the whole board read the same book / article and discuss the topic before taking action on the learnings
Why not start your own boardroom bookclub?! OK, that might be a bit extreme; it’s an idea that’s worth considering though.
If the organisation is unable to fund any director development, find a relevant book or article for the board members to read. A book can be read chapter by chapter and discussed briefly at each board meeting. An article is easy to incorporate into the board pack for each board member to read and reflect on at the next board meeting.
Find a topic that’s relevant to the board and/or organisation based on the board’s current learning requirements or on what can add value to the organisation.
These are simple and easy ways to embed a learning culture into the board. The individual, group, and organisation will all benefit from the growth and development.
Share in the comments below: what learning activity will you introduce onto your board?
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