John Collier FAQ: Board’s Responsibilities in a Management Sense

By Alistair Collier | From BG Magazine


I am a club GM and we had a debate recently at board level about what my role is and how it intersects with the board’s responsibilities in a management sense. I thought the matter would be dealt with quickly, and that we would move on, but it turned into a complex debate.

So, for clarity could you offer some sort of a summary of the board’s roles and responsibilities, not just as they are in the ‘book’, but rather in a more practical day-to-day sense?


I get the sense that the unasked question about micro-management is ‘lurking’ somewhere in the semi-rough with this question! The truth is that in a practical sense, and at its most basic level, a board should set strategy and overall goals, and the required budgets, by working in conjunction with its GM, CEO and or management team. Once the plans have been agreed, the board would then monitor – from afar – the progress, be on hand to support (not lead), offer advice when asked (not make unwanted inputs – the unwanted spectre of micro-management), and review progress (or otherwise) with its management team, to make any adjustments to any of the goals or strategies that might have been set in the original planning process.

It sounds simple enough, but the complication is that any board’s effectiveness is directly predicated on the:

Skillsets, integrity, commitment…

Which each member brings to the table. Many of the issues being faced by SA’s malfunctioning SOEs can be attributed to their boards misfiring on the first of these two cylinders. As to the direct interaction between any board and its management – trust is a key factor. The board must have the trust that its management team has the skillsets to deliver the planned course of action.

Conversely, management must be able to trust that the board allows get it to get on with its job and not interfere with management’s day-to-day responsibilities. If management fails there is a system of recourse to address this. The problem with the board at golf clubs is that they are rarely professional and are subject to continual change, which means that issues with personality or a new board not ‘knowing’ its management team can cause serious issues.

Managing the relationships in this type of environment is an unfortunate by-product of the current system and looks unlikely to change any time soon.

The sad outcome with this type of working environment will often mean that a manager will spend more time engaged in managing the politics at the facility, than in actually managing the facility!

That said, some practical advice, would be for the board, and any sub-committees set up by them to assist it with its deliberations, to agree on and implement governance charters.
These charters would clearly delineate those obligations and responsibilities, which fall within the ambit of the Board and sub-committees and those that fall for attention by management. Having a governance handbook, with applicable charters, would greatly assist with providing direction as to the role and separation of duties of the board on the one hand and management on the other.