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Resolve to have better governance in 2023

It has been a long year, but 2022 is finally nearing an end. As you sit back and think about your goals and resolutions for 2023, I challenge those involved in amateur sport to resolve towards better governance. Luckily, there is a recently released report which can act as your guide and also provide some interesting reading for you over the holidays.

Recently, Hockey Canada released the final report from its independent governance review, led by the Honourable Thomas Cromwell.

The report offers a very detailed review of Hockey Canada’s governance processes and reporting structures and recommendations for improvement. Every board member of a national and provincial sports organization and all senior staff should take the time to read this report.

The report outlines the framework for good governance citing three principles that every not-for-profit organization should practice in their governance structure:

First, the Board’s role, duties, and functions should be clearly defined and communicated by the organization. Directors are most effective when they have a clearly defined role in the organization, separate from the CEO and other management staff.

Second, the Board’s quality is enhanced through a robust recruitment, nominations, and elections process based on skills, experience, diversity, and qualities. Quality within the Board flows to the organization. Qualities might be fundamental or specialized, but at a minimum must include those that make the directors efficient and effective Board members. Diversity is quickly becoming a necessary component of a successful Board. Benefits extend beyond social and professional diversity to include cognitive diversity, which enhances the collective knowledge, views, and perspectives of the Board, all while improving their problem-solving skills.

And lastly, the Board’s structures and processes should be well-established and inform how they conduct their work. The roles of Board members should be clearly outlined and not subject to automatic renewal. Transparency is extremely important and reflected in legislation with the presence of mandatory access to financial statements, corporate records and copies of the organization’s articles, by-laws, and any amendments. Accountability and transparency are paramount for good governance. The Board should regularly report to stakeholders using a framework and a plan to strengthen accountability, engagement, and communication efforts

Major Takeaway: Diversity matters

Beyond a required range of skills and expertise lies the importance of demographic characteristics on a Board that reflects Canadian society. Studies support the conclusion that Board diversity is directly associated with better decision-making and governance, particularly because of its ability to combat groupthink. Groupthink occurs when group decision-making is done in a way that suppresses creativity and dissension; thereby, weakening the quality of Board decisions and outcomes.

Similarly, the report calls for regular and significant representation from athletes. This includes allowing athlete representation on the Board to ensure that their invaluable experience are reflected in all aspects of the organization’s governance processes and structures.

Looking to review your governance processes and reporting structures in 2023? Contact us – we can help!

Erin Durant and Sarah Del Villano

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