Translating what good governance means

CREATING CHANGE: It's about balancing the structure with compassion.
CREATING CHANGE: It's about balancing the structure with compassion.

When someone falls over and scrapes their knee you immediately work out how bad it is and administer a bandage that would cover the wound. 

What does this have to do with good governance?

I’m noticing more and more the dilemma business people face when they volunteer themselves for a place on a charity or not-for-profit board. 

They talk to me about their frustrations when working with the charity, how they don’t listen and “simple things they could do to fix issues don’t get fixed”.

The problem is you’re speaking a different language. 

The cornerstone of a business is structure, systems and process, so the enthusiastic business person administers advice and instructions based on these fundamentals. However, the cornerstones of a charity is care, compassion and nurture. A businesses priority is to create a system or checklist for what is needed to solve the problem.  A charity’s priority is to serve the problem. They hold the person’s hand, wipe the tears and administers the band aid carefully. 

Neither way is wrong. They’re just different ways to address the issue. 

If you’re too heavy on the structure the wound will be sorted, but the person will still be crying. If you’re too compassionate you could miss crucial signs that a checklist would cover. 

The key is to balance of both. 

When you join a board, by understanding the fundamental difference you’re more likely to cut through and create change. Those who need your support are more likely to trust your judgement and advice if they feel you understand who they are and what their priority is. It’s about balancing the structure with the compassion. 

Every good leader is a balance of both and both sectors have a lot to teach each other for the greater good. 

Grace McLean is founder of NFP Connect (Hunter)