Re-invigorate your board and your brand.

Many board members face a frustrating disconnect between the vital governance work they do and the functional impact they seem to have on their organization.

Yes, they establish the mission, vision and values and the strategic plan. They perform their fiduciary duties that keep the lights on, the pirates away, and the auditors happy. Their primary tools are strategy, policy and monitoring. But often, the organization sees them as a bureaucratic layer, whose role they don’t really value or comprehend.

People join boards to be impactful – and they should be. After all, most are volunteers who hold a vested interest in your success. So, how do you bridge the chasm between intention and effect?

By looking at your governance through the lens of brand – but first, you must be clear about the lens.

Your brand is your reputation and everything that affects your reputation.

Now, the list:

Purpose and strategic direction

It is the primary role of governance to establish the purpose and the strategic direction. Most board members have great hopes and dreams for the organization; they participate because they believe in the cause. But they get forced to reduce what they really envision into 10 words or less that everyone can agree on. The result is never the kind of governance and leadership communication that inspires and elevates.

You need to tap into the heart to define your purpose. Your purpose should be the real value you bring to your constituents. It’s why you get up in the morning, the change you want to see in the world, what you stand for, or what you’re proud of.

A brand-based strategic direction gives you a picture of the future that is rich and full, covering everything from where you want to be in the marketplace and how much you want to grow, to what it feels like to be a new employee. This is the kind of vision that staff can see themselves in, that they want to create for themselves and for the people they serve.

Principles of integrity

Ah, values. First, ‘professionalism’ is not a value, it’s not even a clear character trait; and ‘transparency’ is ironically vague. Committees choose words like these because everyone nods when they hear them – but that’s because everyone has their own interpretation of what they mean.

These kinds of value statements are words on the wall; but your culture is the worst behaviour you allow to continue.

Principles of integrity, on the other hand, are the things that make or break everyone’s perception of who you are. They are the basis of your brand.

External position and reputation

No one represents you to your constituents with more authority than the Board. Their personal reputations are intertwined with the organization in highly public and accountable ways. Seeing the role of the Board and governance communication through brand and purpose ensures clarity and consistency from the top.

Governance based on purpose and brand protects the organization from the reputational risk associated with any individual. It helps ensure consistency of purpose through the succession of board members. It attracts people who believe in what you believe in. It attracts complementary partners. And it makes questionable associations much clearer.

Resource acquisition and macro distribution

Muddying your mandate to capture funding or support may seem like a short-term solution. But it’s a long-term recipe for mediocrity, as you try to please disparate masters, which leads to irrelevance, which leads to nothing.

When you attract resources based on your brand, people believe in what they’re supporting, and they tend to stay with you for longer. When investors see value beyond (but including) shareholder return, they tend to be more patient. When you define success beyond financial terms, you are buttressed against market storms.

Distributing resources based on the priorities established within your brand purpose and strategic direction means that you’re putting the money where your mouth is. The reasonable and credible priorities you’ve set in your plan (one of your principles of integrity) are supported appropriately. And you can report what actually happened vs. trying to draw a path to unaligned deliverables.

Monitoring outcomes

What gets measured gets done. So, let’s measure what matters to the brands people love, things like: relevance, effectiveness, integrity, quality, innovation; community integration; environmental kindness; culture; and leadership.

Governance is the natural starting point for becoming a brand people love.