Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In the best interest

This blog is not meant to reflect any one person or persons: it is pondering on the phrase “In the best interest”: what does this really mean? when it comes to law and ethics there are two very different meanings, traditionally when we refer to children you might consider that parents and doctors talk about “in the best interest” it means what is considered to be best for the child...not what is best for the adult, there are times when both the doctor and the parents do not agree as to what is in the child’s best interest. “Best interests” is the doctrine used by most courts to determine a wide range of issues relating to the well-being of children.

My discussion today is about “in the best interest for the College” – now we are looking at “best interest” from a different perspective: you are looking at a philosophy, an organisation and the people within that organisation: 8 people on a Board an EO, office support staff and the membership & stakeholders: Without the membership nothing else exists:

Defintion of “Best Interest” Authority delegated for taking any action or step the delegatee thinks to be the most advantageous to the organization, under the circumstances. This power is conferred usually where it is impossible to anticipate every eventuality, or where the need for rapid decisions or quick response is critical. It is normally given for a short period, or until the time adequate information is available to formulate specific directions or guidelines.

Just to explain some general governance processes of a board for those who may not be familiar with this process: Usually an organisation will have a Constitution Governance Charter (which sets out the ground rules and job descriptions)and several other polices: The board directors are the strategic thinkers they set future goals and represent the college on the National & political front; The directors are selected by the State Membership, this does not mean that the State Board director is responsible to the state they are the National Board director from each state and territory looking after the best interest of the National College: the board director may choose to report back to the State branch to keep them informed about National issues: Therefore the National College has 8 board directors: from this the office bearers are elected the; College President, Vice President and Treasurer; All the directors are volunteers, this is an unpaid position, done as a professional duty to further the profession.

The executive officer is a salaried position; appointed via advertisement and a panel interview: The EO is responsible for carrying out the strategic plans that the board develops: and managing the office staff to carry out the work required in assisting the membership etc the day to day minutia that is required of an organisation of a 5500 membership; The board directors do not venture into the realm of the EO, that is the day to day running of the college.

In order for an organisation to function well you have to have a president and an EO that can work together and a board that is united in philosophy – they do not have to necessarily see eye to eye but they have to know how to agree to disagree and come to reasoned decisions, the ability to argue respectfully, have insight to their behaviour and most importantly have integrity. You have to leave your own agenda at the door, because the focus is “in the best interest of the College” that is for all 5500 members not just certain sectors of the membership. Confidentiality is a vital component to any board, mutual respect and good governance. Once on the board it is a National board, no state or territory exists, however this does not stop factions, such as state biases, homebirth etc

If directors come to the table with different agendas and ego’s the ability to have insight is difficult and decisions are clouded by the comment “in the best interest” my question is whose “best interest” are they truly serving? When you have powerful people in the room you are bound to get explosions, what is required is reasoned arguments, powers of persuasion without bullying and mutual respect.... once respect is gone there is a breakdown in communication because there is a tug of war about “the best interest” this is blatantly clear because there is a breakdown of respect and the factions then take over or the personal loyalties to people rather than “the best interest of the College” and then the battle begins.

The other over powering conflict that may influence how boards behave is outside influence – everyone else knows how to run the board – everyone looking into the fish bowl thinks they know best and want their two cents worth – this can be detrimental – again this comes down to a breakdown of trust and the issue of “the best interest” again I ask “whose best interest” or “whose agenda”? Once you as a board member breach confidentiality and let the outside world in...... it opens the board to criticism.... there is a fine line between being transparent and breaching confidences that lead to untenable situations.

If you do not have good governance you will not be able to function as expected and when things go pear shaped you have nothing to fall back on, it is imperative to ensure there are appropriate governance structures in place to protect your board and organisation.

I am truly saddened that great women have been wounded –in my experience 95% of people are good....but sure as hell that 5% can cause havoc, there is always a minority that cause you to have to reconsider your point of view:

I am disappointed that I have not been able to achieve the things I wanted and have a heavy heart however I am confident I have followed my heart and acted “in the best interest of the College”.

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