Boards Behaving Badly and Domineering CEOs

For Charity Trustees Week 2021, The Wheel and Carmichael organised a webinar to discuss the sensitivities and difficult situations of when things go wrong between the Chair/board and the CEO.

Jillian van Turnhout was invited to be part of the expert panel along with Justin Kilcullen, Debra Allcock Tyler and Diarmaid Ó Corrbuí. It was chaired by Deirdre Garvey.

It proved to be timely and topical debate. People tend to join a registered charity to change some part of the world for the better. Whether we are the paid CEO or the unpaid Charity Trustee sitting on the board, we believe that we take a wholly professionally approach to our respective roles. But what happens when things go wrong, behaviours are bad and people get hurt?

At the core of ‘governance’ is a balancing act of ‘power’ between the board and the CEO. Like any relationship of power, the optimum way to manage it well is through clarity and the mutual understanding of roles, authorities and the availability and regular use of channels for both communications and feedback.

This builds trust and constructive relationships. But these methods need to be used and worked well in order to bring about a productive working environment. Issues around authority, responsibility and accountability are too often obscured in charities through the lack of clarity, understanding and the absence of well worked channels for communications and feedback.

Additionally, the ‘magic ingredients’ for any relationship to work well (i.e. emotional intelligence, empathy and self-awareness) can be missing or only one-sided. The result far too often is that trust breaks down, people get hurt and even seriously traumatised by their experience. This applies to both CEOs as well as Charity Trustees (most often the Chair).

The panel shared their many years of experience of dealing with people in these really difficult situations where it gets personal. With almost 200 attendees, and a lively discussion, Carmichael and The Wheel have committed to continue to identify supports and work with Boards and CEOs.

In addition, Jillian has developed a training course on “Boards, Chairs and CEOs: Roles, Relationships & Boundaries” as part of the Carmichael schedule training programme. There are two courses coming up in February 2022 and May 2022. You can find out more here:

Governance Courses

The Lancet

In July 2021, Jillian co-authored an article in the world-renowned medical journal “The Lancet”