The vital signs for a healthy board

Comprehensive selection, induction and evaluation of board members is necessary to ensure boardroom success, consultant Fleur Hannen told the ACS State Conference in Sydney on Wednesday.


For Fleur Hannen, managing director of Critical Success Solutions, the ancient proverb ‘the fish rots from the head’ is a guiding truth and one aged care organisations should heed.

Speaking at the ACS State Conference on Wednesday, Ms Hannen said organisational success or failure started with the performance of the board, but despite this truism, many organisations did not follow appropriate board selection, training and evaluation processes.

Ms Hannen said proper induction and training of new board members was critical for the board to understand and take their responsibilities and accountabilities seriously.

Board diversity – across gender, age and skill mix – was also a key driver for robust discussion and strategic analysis, and to avoid the perils of group think around the boardroom table.

She said isolated boards, in particular, that did not maintain a connection with the industry, ran the risk of running into significant governance or compliance issues.

“It is the responsibility of the board to ask the hard questions, to keep abreast of the changing environment such as through connections through associations or conferences,” she told the Sydney audience.

“It is the board’s responsibility to action and explore best practice in terms of governance, but unfortunately many do not have the skills to do this.”

She said beyond their obligations under the Aged Care Act, aged care board members must also have a good understanding of their responsibilities and accountabilities under relevant legislation such as workplace health and safety and privacy law.

She said it was worrying that some boards she had spoken to were not fully across the implications of the Living Longer, Living Better reforms coming into effect from 1 July.

Board-management tango

Ms Hannen said it was crucial that the board and the executive worked transparently and in unison. However, the board must not be operational.

“It’s important for the board to understand the complexities of operational management and to receive relevant, timely and balanced information. But it is extremely important for them not to become intertwined with operational aspects.”

She said while the board relied on the executive for regular information and updates, board members should always be vigilant and do their own research.

Fleur Hannen’s health checklist for a high performing board:checklist

  1. Follow a comprehensive recruitment process for the selection of board members
  2. Monitor gender, age and skill balance to avoid becoming insular
  3. Carry out formal board induction and training for new members
  4. Make sure every member of the board has a current police check
  5. Make sure board members understand their responsibilities as Key Personnel under the Aged Care Act
  6. Prioritise board planning and strategy
  7. Keep a comprehensive and up-to-date board manual as well as a code of conduct
  8. Use board committees effectively and review their purpose
  9. Evaluate the success of your board – a good board always learns from its mistakes.
Tags: acs-nsw-act, boards, fleur-hannen, governance,

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