12 Jan 2022

How to induct a new board

By Samantha White

In November 2021, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine welcomed a new set of officers and trustees onto its board for their three-year term. Part of Chief Executive Dr Marcia Philbin’s role is to welcome them and provide the support they need to serve the Faculty and its members effectively. She shares her tips on how best to induct a new board.

Laying the foundations

To kick off the induction process, Marcia has developed a presentation covering the essentials. “It contains a short summary of how FPM came about. And then outlines the role of the board of trustees and their responsibilities, with links to where they can find further information, such as the Charity Commission. I’ve also put in an organogram of the staff group so new appointees can understand who we are and how we’re set up.”

The induction pack contains the latest set of accounts and strategy document, and Marcia has mapped out how FPM has delivered against the strategic plan so far. Key policies on whistleblowing, investment, reserves, and equality, among others, are also included. A guide to the code of conduct and declaration of interest can also be found in the induction pack. Lastly, Marcia has created engagement plans for each officer or trustee, detailing the key contacts and stakeholders they need to meet, within the Faculty and outside. Her team help facilitate those meetings.  

At their first board meeting in January, new members will receive training on their role and what is expected of them from an external facilitator.

Make the most of external networks for training and knowledge-sharing

New FPM officers can benefit from the organisation’s links to the wider medical field.

“The Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management run training on an officer’s role on behalf of the medical royal colleges, so our new Vice President has attended that. Our president has attended induction meetings with the President of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and has had meetings with counterparts in the other colleges. She has a meeting with the Department of Health, as well as weekly meetings with Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England. So, she’s really getting to grips with all the key issues.”

Promote interaction with the members

In March, the trustees will be involved in developing the Faculty’s new strategy, which Marcia believes will show them the impact they can have on the organisation.

To inform this process, each new officer or trustee hosted a breakout room at the November 2021 AGM, which provided an opportunity to engage with a group of members about a particular topic which feeds into strategy development. “I put them at the centre of these discussions, so the members can see that these are the leaders of the organisation.”

To further raise their profile among members, FPM has published ‘Meet the Trustee’ interviews on its website. These were promoted on the organisation’s social media channels, and Marcia enjoyed reading all the LinkedIn posts offering congratulations to the new appointees.

Make documentation accessible

One of the main challenges trustees face is the volume of reports they receive, and the time required to process all of the information these contain. “To make it more digestible for them, I have introduced quad charts, which provide an easy-to-read snapshot of FPM’s activity throughout the year. Basically, you’ve got four quadrants and one is focused on operational things that they need to know. The second shows external meetings that are happening. The third is about celebrating – what’s gone really well, why we need to pat people on the back. The fourth one is about concerns, things that they need to be aware of.”

Similarly, “I put each strategic objective into a table and ‘RAG rate’ them, so you can see its status at a glance: green is for ‘on track,’ amber is ‘falling behind’ and red means ‘not started.’ That way you could just focus on the red, and if you’ve got time, you can ask questions about the amber.”

Foster a supportive environment

Trustees also have to feel comfortable asking for support, says Marcia. “There’s no such thing as a stupid question – everybody has to start somewhere.”

If trustees are finding anything particularly challenging, it’s important that the CEO makes themselves available to support them. Given the different interests and skill sets represented, trustees should also have a link to their counterpart on the staff side, whether that’s the head of policy, or the head of membership, for example. 

All of these factors help to create a cohesive group. Marcia knows a board is working well when “I feel comfortable being challenged, and trustees feel safe asking those challenging questions. If they can do that, or just ask anything that they don’t understand, that means we have a group that feels comfortable with one another, and therefore, they will challenge one another appropriately.”

That doesn’t happen overnight, however, and it takes time for trustees to understand their remit. “This is a whole new board. I suspect it’ll take a good year. They have to understand that their role is one of assurance, it isn’t to get involved in the day-to-day operational delivery of the organisation. So, it’s about managing that fine line between strategic scrutiny and making sure that it doesn’t spill over into inappropriate operational involvement.”

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