Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2017 Contents Raph Goldsworthy
What attributes do aged care boards
need in this era of ongoing reform?
BOARDS NEED strong policies and procedures,
recruitment and induction processes and
At the individual level, boards need more
directors who are humble. Humble directors
collaborate to find the answers, they seek counsel
of those who can offer insight and they are willing
to acknowledge when they don’t know something.
Humble directors usually have a good
handle on what is and isn’t inside their circle of
competence. They will support and commit to the
vision of those directors who contribute insight.
All of these are important personal qualities in a
dynamic environment like aged care.
How do aged care boards create
the right culture?
A strong and positive culture is one of the few
true competitive advantages an organisation
possesses because culture is very difficult to
replicate. It is heavily influenced by the past and
present circumstances of the organisation.
Many boards don’t give culture the attention
it deser ves. Directors need to spend time
considering how the board’s own culture
influences the way it governs and how that flows
into and influences the organisation as a whole.
Creating the right culture takes work. The
number one thing that’s required in order to get
the board engaging with culture is to carve out
space on the agenda for in-depth discussion.
Developing a board culture also requires that
directors do more than just have board meetings
together. They need to go out and engage
in learning opportunities, such as attending
conferences and visiting other organisations.
Such steps also help directors get to know each
What traits do individual board
There are many traits directors should possess but
two foundational ones are “strong opinions, loosely
held” and a “deep understanding of governance”.
The first is an understanding that directors
should have conviction in their beliefs about the
organisation, its direction and how it should operate.
But those beliefs must be based on facts,
experience and knowledge. Yet directors need to
they need to
know to fulfil
RAPH GOLDSWORTHY, managing director of
Better Boards, answers our questions on good
governance in aged care.
be open to those facts, experiences and knowledge
changing over time. We must periodically review
and update or change, if necessar y, our positions
on issues or decisions in the boardroom.
The second is based around the idea that we
typically fall back to the level of our training
when we encounter stressful or unfamiliar
situations. Undertaking ongoing professional
development and training is critical to develop a
deep understanding of governance, particularly as
the industr y changes.
How can directors add to their strengths?
One way is by reflecting on whether they would
still sit on the board even if they could not tell
people about it.
That’s because many of us do a lot of things
to placate our ego – such as joining boards we
don’t really want to be on but we get accolades
for being there.
If you can genuinely answer this question with
a yes, then you already have a humility that allows
you to learn new things and add to your strengths.
Humble and curious directors are willing to
learn what they need to know to fulfil their roles
Indeed, they’re willing to go further and
find out more than they might need to know to
perform their director duties. In times of change
this learning is critical to decision-making.
What common mistakes should aged
care boards avoid?
Most boards and directors don’t give much
thought to how they, individually or as a group,
make decisions. There is often no disciplined
Most of us assume a discussion and analysis
of information is all that’s required to make
We also all assume that that we are completely
rational and deliberate decision-makers, but
this is not the case. We fall prey to all sorts of
biases, both individually and as a group, and even
something as simple as not having eaten or being
tired impairs our ability to make a quality decision.
Good quality decisions are made by having
a rigorous process around them, something
which many boards do have, but there is still a
lot of work to be done given most still focus on
the analysis. n
32 | JULY – AUGUST 2017
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