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How to Repair a Toxic Board

A new report on boards suggests their culture needs a rethink

Association boards are paradoxical creatures. They exist to create a consensus around an organization's priorities, but they are also meant to foster robust debate around challenging issues. Drift too far toward consensus, and you risk a rubber-stamp board. Drift in the other direction, and you risk open conflict. So, it is unsurprising that, according to a 2022 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of corporate boards, nearly half of all board members would like to replace at least one of their colleagues.

A new report from the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), Culture as the Foundation: Building a High-Performance Board, explores the difficulty of threading that needle, and proposes a few solutions. As the report explains, the need for boards to get it right is more acute these days: In the post-COVID era, boards are asked to be more agile, transparent, diverse and accountable, which means "long-standing norms of behavior may no longer be effective or acceptable."

To that end, the report, produced by a commission of corporate board leaders and subject-matter experts, emphasizes how a board can establish and enforce an effective culture. Its recommendations are bundled into three main themes: Defining an optimal board culture; reinforcing its culture and behavioral norms; and addressing "major cultural fault lines." Within those themes, the report comments on some familiar issues—the board's relationship to management, silos, ineffective committees and more. But it's worth a look especially for matters around those "cultural fault lines."

Please select this link to read the complete article from Associations Now.

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