Last week, I shared 4 fundamentals of effective board service that pertained to key differences between the Board and the Executive team. This week, I’ll continue with 4 additional fundamentals pertaining to best practices for directors.
Check out last week’s post by clicking on the button below.
As a director, you are stepping into a very specific (and important) role. Adopting the following four practices will help maximize your effectiveness.
5 – The Duty of Care
The minute you don your “director’s hat,” your job is to act for the sole benefit of the organization. The best way you can do this is to come to each meeting prepared.
Take time to review the briefing materials and agenda ahead of time. Do additional research on your own if needed. Call the board Chair or President to get better perspective or clarification on an issue if you still have questions.
If these materials aren’t provided ahead of time or hastily provided at the last minute – insist that they are. Most by-laws have “notice requirements” built into them governing the issuance of these documents ahead of time.
Remember – as we learned last week, the board has to rely on “inputs” to make their best decisions. If your inputs aren’t good, your collective decision making won’t be, either.
6 – The Duty of Loyalty
Someone once said, “if you want to occupy center stage, look for another job.” While being on a board is an honor, you are really acting as a servant leader for the organization.
There are several important points here.
First, be careful to avoid conflicts of interest. If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot be completely objective because of other engagements or involvements, simply recuse yourself from those decisions.
Second, don’t dominate the meetings. The board is a collaborative body by nature. All inputs and perspectives are vital to the collective decision making process.
Third, be available. As above, make sure that you block off sufficient time for preparation, but also to be available to other directors or the executive team as needed.
7 – The Duty of Good Faith
As a director, your job is to be impartial. This means avoiding bringing company politics, personal agendas or pet projects into the boardroom. This impartiality demonstrates good faith.
Weigh decisions carefully. Focus on getting things done properly rather than quickly. There is a fine balance here between “speed kills” and “analysis paralysis.” Either extreme is ineffective.
8 – Avoid Excessive Informality
Many boards operate in too informal a manner.
This is not to say that each board meeting has to be no fun, super serious and clinical.
Invest time in building good relationships with other directors and the executive team. People work best with people they like. While you may not resonate with everyone, you can still gain a better appreciation for where others are coming from, which will make the board’s collective decisions better.
Also, don’t just “rubber stamp” decisions. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, challenge assumptions, and make sure the executive team stays on their toes. This doesn’t have to be antagonistic, if done professionally and out of genuine concern, then everyone will benefit.
As it says in Proverbs – “iron sharpens iron.”
Board service is truly one of the most gratifying aspects of leadership life. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my past and present board service, and have developed many close relationships throughout the years as a result.
Practicing these 8 fundamentals will give you a great head start.