GovernanceThis is a complex topic. The vast majority of people in business do not truly understand what governance is. First off, governance is NOT just for board members or senior executives. We should all have a basic working knowledge of governance. Second, anytime a group of people gather to achieve a common goal, governance is required. That sounds a lot like a team, a department, or a division. Therefore, governance is important to all of us.

What is it?

There are three key aspects of governance that work together to provide true governance.

  1. Authority
  2. Decision-making
  3. Accountability

You cannot have one or two of these aspects without the other(s). Good governance depends on having all three elements working together in lock-step. This ensures that there is an appropriate set of checks and balances. When you think about it, all of us are participating in governance every day.

Why do you need to know this?

Governance determines who has power. In your business role who has the power? What power do you have? Can you describe it succinctly? You should.

Governance determines who makes decisions based on their power or authority. This includes who has that authority and how or when they delegate it.

An interesting aspect of governance that is often overlooked is how participants in the group or team have their voices heard. This is important. Do you ensure that your staff have a way to really have their voices heard? Is your voice heard?

Lastly is accountability. I am always surprised when someone tries to get out from under accountability. Why do that? With my clients, and when I was an employee, I always sought to ensure that I had accountability. It is counterculture but accountability is freeing. I know my authority level and I know what I own, but often more importantly, I know what I don’t own. This knowledge of owning and not owning ensures that I am focused on the right things. Further, I know what I’m accountable for and therefore I can use the full breadth and depth of my authority with clarity.

Price of entry

If you can demonstrate a working knowledge of governance in your current role you will likely distinguish yourself from the crowd. That’s because governance is part of the price of entry to senior roles. A sustained winning leader knows governance. A poor leader with a meager knowledge of governance will likely only have short term success. If you think about the spectacular examples of business leadership failure you will see at the root a governance failure in authority use, poor decision making, or lack of accountability.

You need to learn more about this

A great resource for learning more about governance is the Institute on Governance. It would be worth your while to spend some time browsing this site.

One of the best ways to learn about governance, assuming you understand the mechanics of governance, is to observe. Watch those above, around, and below you to see how they manage governance. Do they know what it is? How do they model governance behaviour? I’ll bet that the vast majority of the time you will see how not to govern. That’s ok, observing how not to do something is often a better learning experience.

What are you going to do to understand and use governance in your daily work?

David Reimer


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