Good reads on board learning

There is so much to learn on board governance that it can be overwhelming. That’s why I appreciate my colleagues across the globe who share their wisdom and help curate the vast amount of stuff flowing past us.

Today I’d like to celebrate Debra Beck, EdD and her always stimulating Laramie Board Learning Project blog. (Besides reading Debra’s writing, I’m also having the pleasure of collaborating long distance with Debra as part of a team conducting research on board chairs.)

In her blog, Debra explores board governance through the lens of adult learning. Her blog is an exploration of how boards and the people who work with them can apply adult learning theory to improving governance.

For too long, many organizations have sought to solve their board challenges by hosting another training session. I get those calls all the time… “please come tell my board what it should be doing.”

But as Debra reminds us, most adult learning doesn’t happen in a workshop. As she explains, the 70:20:10 rule for adult learning proposes that just 10% of adult learning happens in formal training sessions. Most adult learning — the 70% — comes from doing the work, with the final 20% from interactions with other people.

Why is this important? Our board members primarily learn to be board members through their on-the-job experiences, however good or bad that might have been.

If your organization is truly interested in changing its governance practices, it’s going to take much more than a workshop to make that change happen.  While the workshop can provide examples of how to do things differently, change will only come about by intentionally putting those new ideas into action over time.

To put those ideas into action, board members and executive leadership will need to embrace learning and reflection, be willing to change the way they have learned to be a board, and make choices about their leadership that reinforces the new way of being they have set as their goal.

I urge you to plunge into Debra’s writing. It will be worth the time spent.

2 responses to Good reads on board learning

  1. Abby Yanow

    Nice post Gayle – and excellent advice from Debra. I think of boards as teams, and relate this to team coaching, in which the coach works with a team (board) over time, helping it to improve its functioning by observing and commenting (judiciously) on the way they work together – raising their awareness of team dynamics, their problem solving and decision making processes – and inviting them to reflect and embed learning in their work. I think there are reports of the ROI of team coaching, which would correspond with the 70-20-10 rule.

    • Gayle Gifford Post Author

      Abby, Great insight. Board development work is moving much more explicitly to a coaching model and this fits so well. Thank you.

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