Trustees Week Day 5: Try the 5 S’s

Today is the fifth and final day of this years Trustees Week. I hope you’ve had a chance to think about your own Trustees and your own governance this week. Remember you’ve got a last chance to get access to some of the free governance resources that have been mad available during the week.

Earlier in the week a panel discussion was held to discuss the next review and rework of the useful Charity Governance Code. The Code is reviewed every few years to make sure it is still fit for purpose, so a new edition will be issued over the coming months after reflecting on feedback from across the sector. It appears fro the panel discussion that there will be changes in wording in the areas of ethics, diversity and safeguarding as these are all very key matters for charities and trustee boards these days. Watch for updates.

Final thought for the day: use the 5 S’s

The 5 S’s are five ‘modes’ that an individual Trustee or a board as a whole can operate in. I like to think of them as 5 different hats you can wear. In a nutshell they are:


These terms were first coined by Julia Unwin many years ago, and you can still read her talk that covered these here. Well worth reading the whole thing.

A good board would have the ability to work in all 5 modes. Whilst some individual trustees might lean towards one approach more than others (for example a treasurer might naturally be a Scrutiny type), it is possible across a whole board to shift between modes to ensure different ways of looking at the organisation.

As an individual Trustee you might want to decide what mode you naturally work in. And then maybe you can move outside your natural state and try another mode?

One way to use these 5 S’s is also as a board. Why not choose a mode for each of your board meetings and make sure you operate in that mode? It might help you to see different approaches to problems or think deeper about things.

If you’re always trying to put a strategy together, but your staff team are feeling unsupported then perhaps you need a different approach? If you’re great at looking at the detail but don’t step back to check and stretch yourselves, then perhaps your organisation will get left behind?

The best mix is to be able to use each of the 5 S’s as appropriate and together. It’s probably the quickest, simplest yet most useful ways you can stir up your governance thinking and make a difference.

Have a read of Julia’s article. Share it around your committee. Get trustees to think about their own tendency to one or more S. Use the tool over your coming board meetings to stir things up. Good luck.


Thank you for reading these blogs over the past week. If you want to talk about trusteeship, good governance or other matters then I’m happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. Just email me at We’re particularly interested in hearing from people who are interested in becoming Trustees – we’ll always have groups and charities locally who need your services!