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When the board is the problem

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

I felt some sympathy for the chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)  appearing before a select committee. He had an action plan ,  a number of strategies that had delivered improvements , all be it frustratingly slowly, over the last few years. The chair of the committee pointed out that the current target appeared to be accepting slower progress in the future not the dramatic change the organisation claimed to aspire to. But then various board members addressed the committee and it was clear that the chief executive was working with his hands tied behind his back.

Not all boards are on board with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) agenda. Even if they claim they are. These boards are content for the organisation to be creating the impression of action whilst old attitudes and behaviour persist.The trouble is the people in charge reflect these attitudes and behaviour , they are part of the problem but need to be part of the solution.  Short of replacing board members how can HR assist the chief executive to equip the board to tackle the problems?

The task will be a lot easier if the chair recognises the need to challenge attitudes and change behaviour. If board members are involved in recruitment they may already have received some training around EDI. The organisation probably has an EDI policy statement and strategy. The organisations recruitment adverts probably refer to a commitment to equality and an aspiration to have a diverse workforce where everyone feels included. All of which have been endorsed by the board. Chances are they voted through these, statements and strategies in much the same way as they would new health and safety polices, necessary and good, but not requiring much debate or soul searching. Is a one day course on unconscious bias going to change things?
 Perhaps HR could suggest the board watches the train crash that is the performance of a number of ECB senior officials and board members  in front of the select committee. Examine the media response, identify similarities in the challenges faced by both organisations and consider as leaders how their behaviour effects others. May be finish off with a role play with members of BME groups acting the part of the select committee!

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