Working with your trustees one-to-one

Two people talking one-to-one

Do you have terrific trustees or troublesome trustees? Would you describe them as active or engaged? Or are they absent, bored or disruptive?

Critically, what role are you playing as Chair – are you bringing out the best in your trustees or just hoping for the best? Taking an active approach in this can make a big difference and it doesn’t have to be too time-consuming.

Investing in your trustees

Individual trustees deserve attention. They are volunteering their time and effort, and it is right for the charity, led by you as Chair, to show appreciation and help them to contribute and do well. Without encouragement or guidance they can feel undervalued and frustrated or that they are wasting their time.

Our new resource Working one-to-one is a practical guide with ideas and suggestions. It includes a ‘Trustee cycle’ which helps you think about how to work with your trustees from recruitment to departure. What they need from you and your organisation will change as they progress through the cycle.

copyright AoC. Graphic showing a circle with 7 stages. 1= plan, 2= recruit, 3=appoint, 4 = induct, 5=motivate and devlop, 6=plan succession, 7=moving on.

Spending time one-to-one

As Chair, a key role is to get to know the unique individuals on your board and to create the conditions for them to thrive and contribute. To do this you really need to spend time with each of them one-to-one. This of course takes time but is an investment that will pay off.

Is this something you do already or you could start to do? Do you like to make yourself accessible to trustees? If this is difficult you might be able to share this with a Vice Chair if you have one.

Recruitment and induction

Good beginnings really help. When welcoming new trustees, establish mutual expectations, identify what they need and give them support. Give them a realistic picture of what to expect. You may be able to get other trustees involved in this early induction.

Once in post stay in touch, check how they are doing, find out what’s important to them, what they are willing to contribute, whether they need any guidance. Give them feedback on what they are contributing. Take time to thank them and appreciate their efforts. Let them know if they need to change anything for example if some of their behaviour is unhelpful.

Be open about expectations around length of service. You don’t want trustees to overstay their welcome but equally sometimes trustees feel they are letting the organisation down by moving on.

About our guide

There are many useful resources out there about trustee recruitment. These are included in the guide. But there is not much written about how Chairs can work with trustees once in post Our new guide fills that gap.

This guide is the first of three in our Working with trustees series. The next two guides, out later in the year, will look at working as a team and working through difficult board relationships.

Copies of the full guide are available for:


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