governance coach

Governance Coach: Who will guard (advise) the guards?

As a Governance Coach, I assist Companies, Nonprofits and Educational Institutions that have some form of governance called Boards of Directors, Trustees, School Boards or Advisory Councils. Their mission is to create a long-lasting foundation that balances all the stakeholders’ (pillars) needs required to achieve the mission.

Historically, Boards were the guards/guardians responsible to set the direction for the organization and the operational leaders and watch over their performance both in results and in means used. They also advise and support management without becoming the managers themselves.

Philosophers have asked, “Who though will ‘guard’ the guards when there is a problem?” Guard here means advise, warn, help resolve conflicts and provide objective feedback on their policies and procedures. A Governance Coach who has nothing to gain but has experience walking in the shoes of the board is a solution for many board conflicts or concerns.

Obstacles to Resolving Issues

Some boards expect the CEO or Board Chair to play the role of keeping the Board on track. Expecting the CEO to do so is contrary to what the board’s responsibilities are. Expecting the Board Chair to do it all is inappropriate since this is the one entity in which only the majority can make a decision, not an individual.

Boards are composed of bright, committed, articulate people who are accustomed to running things. It can be hard for them to accept that more conversation among themselves will not resolve issues. A board needs the wisdom to know when they cannot reach a quality consensus.

The Opportunity a Governance Coach Provides

I do a situation analysis using the appropriate tools given the situation such as interviews or surveys and reports from all parties concerned. In other cases, supporting them through a mission renewal or strategic thinking process may be the best approach. In any process, I try to ask powerful questions that help individuals see and hear in a new way. I do a lot of synthesizing and try to shine light on whatever is missing. It can include illuminating the elephant in the living room to everyone’s relief.

In other cases, I have identified weaknesses in habits and procedures that were unseen by the group because they were too close to the situation and blinded by ‘customs’. Adding a Governance Coach to the mix also changes the conversation, the way people hear each other, and any unbalanced power.


Fellow, Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership
Certified Board Director by the Caux Round Table and St. Mary’s University
Privately held Corporate Board – served eight years and chaired for three years
Minnesota High Technology Council – service and chaired the Pre-K-12 Education Committee
Citizen’s League – Board and Committees
The Conscious Business Alliance – Board of Directors
Responsible Minnesota Business- Board of Directors
Intercultural Student Experiences – Chaired Board and Governance Committee
Board Vice President at SPIRE – Federal Credit Union Foundation

Contact me for more information or an appointment.


“Margaret’s calm, wise leadership, excellent listening and negotiating skills, appreciation for diversity of views, and ability to handle the challenges of a company in significant transition were all skills that and behaviors that made my role as CEO much easier. Margaret has a unique ability to understand people, company cultures, and the potential in both.” – See more at: more testimonials >

Eric Donaldson,
Former CEO
Reell Precision Manufacturing

Comments are closed.