Trustee Profile – Nessan Vaughan

Trustee Profile – Nessan Vaughan

Nessan Vaughan, Chairperson of Sphere 17, Regional Youth Service

Full-time Community & Volunteer Worker

Honest, Organisied and Flexible: Building Strong Board Relationships 

“Building and achieving consensus are important while focusing on arriving at the right decision; not always the easy decision. Honesty and transparency greatly assist in achieving this as trust is developed.”

Why did you choose to take on a voluntary directorship?

 I wanted to make a meaningful contribution to people and communities experiencing disadvantage and social exclusion.

How has your experience differed from what you expected?

The regulatory framework in respect of governance; the distinction between Boards of Management and Boards of Directors.

Has your professional capacity helped you in this position?

My lengthy and diverse experience in the public service, particularly my policy background, have helped me.

What have you learnt by being on the board?

The need for a balanced Board with an appropriate mix of skills is essential for an effective Board. Thus, when recruiting Board members, one should start by examining any skills deficits and then having an open and transparent recruitment process.

What challenges did you encounter whilst being on a board?

Varying and often inconsistent demands made by the sometimes multiple funders. The need to take account of various perspectives whilst ultimately doing the ‘right thing’: funders, staff, service users, managers and Directors.

How did you approach conflict resolution on your board?

I encountered very little of this. It is always important to prepare well for Board meetings – agree agenda and anticipate any issues with the Manager; utilise Board Committees to do some of the detailed examination and preparation of various items; present well written papers for Board information/consideration.

How would you describe time management with respects to your day-job and voluntary board position?

I am a full-time volunteer and work for a variety of organisations. Good diary management is essential. Set aside sufficient time for the scheduled meetings and preparation of same and, importantly, be flexible around availability as required.

How important was teamwork and collaboration in relation to board effectiveness?

Essential. Building and achieving consensus are important while focusing on arriving at the right decision; not always the easy decision. Honesty and transparency greatly assist in achieving this as trust is developed.

November 2017

Trustee Profile – Niamh Gallagher

Trustee Profile – Niamh Gallagher

Niamh Gallagher, Trustee of Women for Election

CEO, Drinkaware

Understanding the Limitations of a Small Organisation and how Board Effectiveness can Combat this

“Effective team work is even more important given that Directors are voluntary and therefore their time is more limited, everyone has to work together as efficiently and effectively as possible to achieve the desired result.”

Why did you choose to take on a voluntary directorship?

I set up Women for Election, but was no longer in a position to run it in the day-to-day. The obvious transition was to move onto the Board so that I (and my fellow co-founder, Michelle O’Donnell Keating) could continue to play a role in the strategic direction of the organisation.  I can’t imagine not being involved with Women for Election – as co-founder, it is very much part of who I am: I feel passionately that we need more women in politics, and I want to do all I can to ensure that we achieve that.

What have you learnt by being on the board?

A lot about Governance! Before becoming a Director I wasn’t aware of the various legal and compliance elements that come with running a company or non-profit, nor did I fully understand the very central role the Board plays in driving the whole organisation: from a policy and procedure point of view, as well as strategy and budget.

What challenges did you encounter whilst being on a board?

Fundraising is a constant challenge.  Working in small non-profit organisations the Board maintains a role here, and – in the case of Women for Election in the last year – took full responsibility for delivering the funds necessary to run the organisation.  I know people who want to take board positions for leadership and strategy experience, that is of course part of it, but my experience has been grittier – when it comes to the organisation surviving and thriving the board of Women for Election has played a critical, hands-on role.

How did you approach conflict resolution on your board?

We haven’t had a serious conflict on our Board, but – as a political organisation – we have regular issues for discussion where there are a variety of viewpoints.  This is managed by our excellent Chairperson, Michelle O’Donnell Keating, and naturally by our Board culture, which fosters debate and discussion, and always reverts to the question: what is best for the organisation?

How would you describe time management with respects to your day-job and voluntary board position?

This can be challenging! This year has been more hands-on as a Board member at Women for Election as we have had limited staffing.  We are currently hiring a CEO so that will change.  The issues tend to arise when both the board organisation and my day job are busy, which seem to happen at the same time! Needing to be available during the day for Board activities happens now and again, and I do find that hard with my day job, but generally I manage it, particularly as the learning I get from dealing with the situations that arise as a Board member is usually helpful to my day job too.

How important was teamwork and collaboration in relation to board effectiveness?

Teamwork and collaboration are critical when it comes to Board effectiveness – the Board are united around achieving the vision of the organisation, and have to work together to drive and support the team to deliver that vision.  My experience of being on a board has been very much about working with other board members in a collaborative way, developing an idea and then taking responsibility for bits of it to drive its delivery.  Effective team work is even more important given that Directors are voluntary and therefore their time is more limited, everyone has to work together as efficiently and effectively as possible to achieve the desired result.

November 2017

Trustee Profile – Helen Kelly

Trustee Profile – Helen Kelly

Helen Kelly, Trustee of Barnardos Ireland

Head of Corporate Banking Origination – Ireland, Barclays Bank

Discovering the Impact of Charitable Organisations through a Board role

“It is much more fulfilling than I originally expected. What is particularly striking is when we visit projects or hear case studies about the impact of Barnardos on children’s lives. This helps put my day job into perspective”.

Why did you choose to take on a voluntary directorship?

Firstly, because I completed my Chartered Director exams at the Institute of Directors in 2014 and I wanted to put my leaning into practice. Secondly, because I wanted to give something back to the Community – I am not very good at painting or gardening, and I wanted to use my professional skills. Thirdly, because I was encouraged and supported by my employer Barclays to do so and that was also very important.

How has your experience differed from what you expected?

It is much more fulfilling than I originally expected and Board discussions can be really interesting. Governance matters are an important agenda item but there are also many strategic decisions to be made that impact on our employees and on the services that we can provide to children and their families. What is particularly striking is when we visit projects or hear case studies about the impact of Barnardos on children’s lives. This helps put my day job into perspective.

Has your professional capacity helped you in this position?

Absolutely. In Barnardos we are lucky to have a very diverse Board comprising of child care professionals, academia and business leaders with expertise in areas such as finance, HR, PR and marketing, but I like to think my commercial and financial skills from banking add real value also.

What have you learnt by being on the board?

I am surrounded by very experienced, sage Directors from both public and private sector backgrounds, all of whom have different perspectives on particular points. The experience of listening to and working closely with others who think quite differently from me is what I am learning most.

What challenges did you encounter whilst being on a board?

Initially the biggest challenge was understanding the services we provide, how Barnardos interacts with service provision from the State and basic sector terminology, so there is a definite learning curve for about a year before you start to have the confidence to contribute yourself. I also joined the Audit Committee and that has also been very useful place to learn what the key risks are and how to mitigate these.

How important was teamwork and collaboration in relation to board effectiveness?

Really important. At its core a Board is a collection of individuals who need to work together for the good of the organisation. Most Barnardos Directors will join a Sub-Committee at some point during their directorship and that fosters even closer working relationships but the ability to collaborate is key particularly as it relates also to the Executive Team.

November 2017

Trustee Profile – Michael McDonagh

Trustee Profile – Michael McDonagh

Michael McDonagh, Chairperson of Boardmatch Ireland 

Senior Business Director – Hays Recruitment

Dealing with Challenges and Learning as a Charity Trustee
“You have to be mindful that, as a Director or Trustee, you are less hands on operationally than you might like to be – you need to be able to let go and trust the executive team to deal with the day-to-day issues” 

 

Why did you choose to take on a voluntary directorship?

Having worked for Hays Recruitment for 15 years, I wanted to test my skills in another environment. I also felt a strong sense of wanting to give something back. Finally, I thought it would be good for my career – the opportunity to build a new network, give myself some profile and see how I could cope at board level.

 

What challenges do you encounter whilst being on a board?

The main challenge has been the transition from a very large organisation with good resources (in my day job) to a very small organisation with limited resources.You have to be mindful of the fact that things you could get done in your day job with relative ease are much tougher in this environment. You therefore have to be creative and think about how you can try and achieve the same quality outcomes on a smaller budget and with less resources. You also have to be mindful that, as a Director or Trustee, you are less hands on operationally than you might like to be – you need to be able to let go and trust the executive team to deal with the day-to-day issues.

 

How do you approach conflict resolution on your board?

Thankfully, the Board of Boardmatch Ireland is experienced and everyone understands why we are there – to work independently to improve governance in the not-for-profit sector by strengthening Boards’ composition. Any conflicts that have arisen tend to be against the back-drop of understanding that everyone wants the organisation to move forward. When we have had disagreements, talking it through, taking into account other Directors’/Trustees’ positions, is crucial to finding a way through. We have also developed clearer expectations of the role of a Director/Trustee on the Board of Boardmatch, so everyone knows what is expected of them.

 

How important is teamwork and collaboration in relation to board effectiveness?

Very important. We have developed and continue to develop the sub-committee structure in order to support the executive team in a more cohesive way. The Board has been excellent in volunteering for roles on sub-committees. I think the Board and the executive work very well together – it is important to have constructive criticism (that’s part of the role of the Board), but again with the understanding that everyone is trying to get to the same place.
November 2017

Director, CEO & Chair Training – 2018

Boardmatch’s training calendar for 2018 will be released in the new year. Please follow our social media pages, on Twitter and LinkedIn, for further updates.

To express your interest or find out further information about our training days, please contact Hannah Coleman at hannahcoleman@boardmatch.ie or call the office on 01-671 5005.