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How Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

How Do You Know What You Don’t Know?
Jeffery Schau, Consultant, The Governance Coach™

One day I was using a hand saw to cut a piece of wood. I knew enough to keep my hands in a safe position and brace the piece of wood. I also knew there are tough spots in wood, called knots, that can catch the blade, causing it to stick. Armed with this knowledge I thought I could safely proceed. Unfortunately, there was something I didn’t know - just how much a saw blade can bend. As I was sawing away, I hit a good stride with nice long strokes. Then it happened. As I went to push the blade forwards after a long back stroke, the blade got stuck and all that forward force had to go somewhere. Sure enough, the blade bent in an arc just wide enough to reach where my knee was positioned. And now, I have a scar where that saw blade took a chunk out of me.

My past is full of stories that demonstrate how what we don’t know can hurt us. Anyone who has done a reasonable amount of woodworking knows that tools can be dangerous, especially saws not meant to cut through our frail bodies. But knowing this is not enough to keep us safe. So how do you avoid ‘blind spots,’ or how do you know what you don’t know?


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Awesome Advanced Governance Practice Learning

Seventeen participants from the US, Canada and Japan gathered at the Hyatt Riverwalk in San Antonio Texas for a two day workshop centered on methods of measurement available to boards and CEOs.

[Read full article here]

At The Board Table

How quickly a year passes. While we still remember all the great things that happened during the conference in Savannah last year, our annual conference in Québec City is rapidly approaching, the first under our new name. In Savannah, we made the pivotal decision to change our name and bylaws and to adopt new Ends. Preparing for that decision took a lot of work, and as board chair I am confident that this new phase will bring yet new questions to be solved.


Luckily, we are using Policy Governance principles. In the same way that those principles helped us steer through the difficult waters of the transition phase, they are helping us now to focus on what our job as a board is: governing. In my earlier blog, I mentioned that we are now discussing further ownership linkage. A second important issue is Ends monitoring, which is on our agenda right now. We have discussed Ends interpretations with our CEO a few times during the past year, and are now in the process of assessing the first data generated during this new phase of our organization. This has led to interesting discussions between the board and our CEO.

These discussions are not always simple, and it reminds me that it would be wrong to think that using Policy Governance ensures that everything is simple for a board. Although following the model can help speed up decisions on most monitoring reports, not all of them can be processed quickly. What Policy Governance really does, in my view, is help focus the discussion on the issues that really need to be discussed. And those discussions may still be complex.

So, although the Policy Governance principles are crystal clear, the questions that arise while using them can still be nuanced. Coping with those questions is the hard work of governing. Personally, what I would like Govern for Impact to be is a community where we can discuss any of the hard questions. And when we stumble, to understand if it was because governance is just difficult, or because we weren't attending fully to our governance principles.

In the end, Governance for Impact is a community, not a model, and the strength of our community is our most important asset. Let's continue to open up, to include more boards in learning how we can all achieve governance excellence. 

Our Changing World

This is a very challenging period for Govern for Impact. As it is for all other organizations, businesses and people worldwide. Now, more than ever, we as a board are aware of the importance of knowing our proper responsibility and work from the values of our owners. Now, more than ever, it is important to keep building a dedicated, knowledgeable community, committed to excellence in governance, driven by the vision that people all around the world benefit from excellent boards.

Govern for Impact has been faced with other challenges in our short history. If we rely on the same logic, faith in our community and belief in our values, as we have used before, I am confident that we will get through this difficult situation too. Let's take on this challenge and help the world in showing how systematic, owner-accountable governance can help to adapt to quickly changing circumstances, while keep being focused on a common purpose.

I wish you the best for the health and safety of you and your loved ones. Hopefully, we'll be able to meet again in person soon. 

Reimagining Our World The Silver Lining

A year and a half ago, with the launch of GOVERN for IMPACT's new name, new Ends, new broader focus, we set out, as a community, to build the commitment to and knowledge, skills and wisdom to enhance governance excellence and the Policy Governance System application in our world. Little did we know then, that as a world community we would need impact-focused, owner-accountable, systematic governance to the extent and scale that is evident now.


We pray for your safety and your wisdom in these challenging times. As you are and will face the impact and chaos of COVID-19, we encourage you to reflect on the key principles of effective governance and work to encourage their implementation now more than ever.

At GOVERN, we invite you to join hands, hearts, and minds with us. We strongly believe that every organization, through principled board and executive leadership, guided by moral imperative, has the capacity to become ever more responsive, agile, and resilient, and in the process, to change the world for the better.

When Boards uphold an integrated set of governing principles within a sound framework, we have seen them lead with greater clarity of purpose and focus on the future. Boards that have lasting impact behave as unified bodies, engage in meaningful discourse, placing the needs of the greater community first, anticipating and leading change on behalf of that community, and ensuring proper stewardship of resources – human, nature, and/or financial.

At GOVERN for IMPACT, we have been very focused on affiliate, staff, and public safety. As a result, we will be offering a fabulous online conference in June 2020 – see the details below.

While you are physically isolating and hopefully socially integrating if you have time to volunteer with GOVERN for IMPACT we can use sure your help/expertise/insight. Please contact Kathy Wiener at [email protected]


Karen Fryday-Field
GOVERN for IMPACT, CEO

Online Forum Servant Leadership And Policy Governance

11:00 AM - 2:00 PM (EST)


Session Presenter: John Bohley
Session Moderator: Karen Fryday-Field


Enrich your understanding of Policy Governance application by exploring the provocative concept of servant-leadership as developed in the classic essays of Robert Greenleaf. Explore John Carver's thoughts about servant-leadership and how he uses the servant-leadership concept to explain key aspects of the Policy Governance model. Compare and contrast the governance thinking of Robert Greenleaf and John Carver. Explore the potential dynamic synergy of the Policy Governance system and the values of servant-leadership for board governance that is effective, accountable, and compassionate. Consider refreshing Policy Governance template policies to explicitly embody a range of servant-leadership values.

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Register Now For Servant Leadership And Policy Governance Enhancing Understanding And Exploring Potential Dynamic Synergy

November 19, 2019

11:00 AM - 2:00 PM (EST)

Presenter: John Bohley
Moderator: Karen Fryday-Field, Senior Governance Consultant and GOVERN for IMPACT CEO

Enrich your understanding of Policy Governance application by exploring the provocative concept of servant-leadership as developed in the classic essays of Robert Greenleaf. Explore John Carver's thoughts about servant-leadership and how he uses the servant-leadership concept to explain key aspects of the Policy Governance model. Compare and contrast the governance thinking of Robert Greenleaf and John Carver. Explore the potential dynamic synergy of the Policy Governance system and the values of servant-leadership for board governance that is effective, accountable, and compassionate. Consider refreshing Policy Governance template policies to explicitly embody a range of servant-leadership values.

Online Forum Further Exploring At What Worth For Ends Policies

11:00 am - 2:00 pm (EST)


This session is a must for Board Chairs, Board Members, CEOs, Board Administrators, and Vice Presidents, Finance.

Speaker: Richard Stringham
Moderator: Karen Fryday-Field

If you've been working with Policy Governance for any length of time, you know that one of the three components of Ends policies is the "at what worth" component. You might also feel comfortable with the theory behind the "what worth" concept, but like so many others, you probably feel challenged to apply the concepts.

[Read full article here]