Chairing Committees – Best Practice

The role of Chair of any group or committee is not easy, there is a lot of guidance available but ultimately it comes down to the individual. I have worked with some excellent Chairs who made every member feel valued and appreciated, I have also worked with Chairs who were autocratic and felt their role was to direct operations or too weak and failed to move the group forwards because they allowed infighting to develop between the members. Successful Chairs guide and support, while they have to keep to an agenda they realise that during discussion it may be necessary to exercise judgement to bring items to a resolution. If outcomes are pre-planned you will quickly lose the support of the members as a whole. The Chair should always try to avoid unnecessary votes. This is particularly relevant for cross-party groups where the minority faction will always feel aggrieved if they are constantly outvoted when compromise solutions are available. The Chair needs to exercise discretion and recognise the need to think on their feet and adopt a modified position as a result of the discussion. Good Chairs are able to do this and stand up for the group and the decisions they make. By nature the Chair needs to be impartial and not try to impose their own personal views on the others.  These ideas and suggestions are based on my experience having chaired a number of committees/panels with up to 25 members over the last 8 years. I also have the pleasure of working with Jacqui Smith, Chair of UHB and HEFT who sets an excellent example of best practice in my opinion – though her roles are of a totally different scale..