the challenge of governance

Collective decision-making to propel impact

Governance is the system for collective decision-making at the apex of an organization. This system of decision-making encompasses both the relationships internal to the board among its directors, and those between the board and the senior most staff person through whom the board delegates operations. Alignment within the board and between the board and the CEO is key for governance to propel impact.

In Canada, directors of charities serve without remuneration, reflecting the non-owned character of these organizations. Yet, the demands on directors both in time and treasure are growing in pace. Increasingly, boards must grapple with the accountability they owe to the organization’s members, to funders and to other stakeholders while serving as the key link to management through the CEO.

Read more on governance

Good governance requires extensive and deliberate efforts to achieve a cohesive set of values and objectives, and a commitment to act with a collective voice. It also requires thoughtful and strategic efforts to balance continuity and change within the board, while building an effective and trusting bridge for delegation to management through the CEO.

A rapidly changing external environment, the legal risk associated with serving as officers and directors, and new standards of public disclosure and accountability driven by donor/funder demand in the age of the internet have brought new levels of complexity inside the boardroom.

I met Yves as a member of the Board of the MS Society of Canada. Yves is deeply knowledgeable about the non-profit sector and its fundraising, public policy and governance functions. He also has superior emotional intelligence. This means he has an uncanny ability to unite people around bold strategy choices, the kind of choices which are critical to thrive in this turbulent environment.

Mark Whitmore, MBA

Founder and CEO, The Great Canadian Hops Company Chair, Crohn’s & Colitis Canada Former Vice-Chair, Deloitte

The real threat to nonprofit governance may not be a board that micromanages, but a board that microgoverns, attentive to a technical, managerial version of trusteeship while blind to governance as leadership.

Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Board

R.P. Chait, W.P. Ryan, and B.E. Taylor

Learn more:

Explore Imagine Canada’s standards for governance best practice.

Read a summary and book review of the seminal book Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards.

My approach

Build alignment and effectiveness 

My approach is designed to build the alignment and effectiveness within the board and between the board and management. Working closely with the board chair and other board officers as well as the CEO, I develop tailored approaches that suit each organization.  Engagements can be straightforward and bring focus to meeting effectiveness or facilitation. More comprehensive governance reviews or re-tooling of the board talent management processes can stimulate new levels of performance in the board room.

Periods of conflict or organizational transition can also bring into focus the need for independent advice. You might be considering a merger or alliance with a like organization or dealing with crippling debt. Interpersonal conflicts may have damaged the trust between the board and its CEO or between key board members.

My experience

Deep practical experience anchored in reflective practice

For twenty-seven years, I have been accountable to boards as the head of large charities in the culture, health and human services sectors. I have also served on numerous boards and currently chair the Council of Imagine Canada’s Standards Program. I have written and taught non-profit governance and combine deep practical experience with knowledge of the literature. It is this combination of practical experience anchored in reflective practice which is highly relevant to social purpose organizations of all types.

Because the system of governance includes the link between the board and its CEO, engagements may involve coaching of board chairs and CEOs, mediation, interim management, and advice in connection with a CEO search or with the onboarding of a new CEO.


Helping organizations build capacity for superior collective decision-making at the board table

Governance review

Mergers & alliance strategy advice

Board orientation, training and development

Board retreats and meeting facilitation

Board policies development and review

Board effectiveness evaluation including peer-to-peer evaluation

Board talent management, succession planning and leadership pipeline assessment

Strategic planning

CEO onboarding and coaching

CEO performance management process design