Board Member Onboarding Done Right

When boards welcome a new member, the focus should be on setting that individual up for success, usually through a new board member onboarding process.

board member onboarding

Whether the person is a first-time board member or a veteran of corporate governance, offering them a purposeful orientation process can go a long way toward building a strong leadership team.

While slight variations will exist, the basic principles of productive onboarding are universal whether your company is public, private, or not-for-profit.
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Best Websites for Board Member Education

board member education

Let’s face it, these days the board landscape is shifting and evolving at lightning speed. It can be difficult to stay up-to-date on all the latest trends in corporate governance.

At Directorpoint, we do our best to help keep you knowledgeable with our weekly newsletter, but where should you go looking for information when questions arise?

We’ve compiled this helpful guide to tell you about some of the most useful board member education and resource websites.

  1. The National Association for Corporate Directors (NACD)

NACD has been providing directors with news and educational information for more than 40 years. Although it takes a paid membership to access all of their materials, they also share articles and information frequently via social media. Their monthly magazine, Directorship, is always chock-full of valuable guidance and news-related activity in the board sphere.
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The First-Time Board Member Checklist

Hand holding bezel-free smartphone with green checklist as concept for mobile and online todo lists. Vector illustration with frameless touchscreen in front of blue background.

Board membership is an adventure in leadership unlike any other. Individuals who are new to the role of director will be challenged in new and unique ways.

In order to meet this challenge head-on, they’ll need to continually develop their expertise while adjusting to a system of checks and balances that is meant to help bring the best decisions forward.

An experienced CEO or CFO may jump into a first-time board member position with a lot of confidence, and that’s a good thing! But they also need to understand the ways in which their role will differ from the internal positions they’ve held in the past.
Here are some tips for making a smooth transition from business leader to board member extraordinaire.
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Strategies for Managing Board Vacancies

Board vacancies

Inevitably, the time will come when your board has one or more empty seats to fill. For boards that are already small in number, having vacancies can cause some strain.

But, unless your bylaws mandate a quorum that you cannot meet, your board should be able to continue operating normally until the seats are filled.

However, there are some stressors you may encounter along the way. Here are some helpful tips for confronting them.

An even number of directors creates a tie vote.

Perhaps, your board typically has 10 members plus a board chairperson for tie-breaking votes. What happens if you’re down one member, and the vote splits? Obviously, if your bylaws dictate a procedure for a tie vote, be sure to follow it. If you have no process already in place, your best option is to revisit discussion on the issue at hand and vote again.

If the vote comes out the same, consider enlisting the opinion of an outside expert. This individual would not cast a vote, but they could bring more information to the table, which could help shift the overall vote counts.
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4 Strategies for Dealing with Peer Reviews in the Boardroom

Thumbs up and thumbs down in flat style.

Many organizations view board member peer reviews as one of the most relevant ways to gauge effectiveness and to work to change any negative behaviors occurring in the boardroom.

Peer reviews can, however, be very tricky evaluations to administer since they carry a strong element of critique. While yearly board evaluations are required for all NYSE-listed companies, peer reviews are not mandatory.

Before choosing to implement peer reviews, board members should discuss the potential value that they would bring to their processes. Then, the chairman can make the decision to implement peer reviews as needed.

If your board does feel that peer reviews will provide significant boardroom insight, here are four suggestions for how to go about administering and utilizing them.
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boardroom burnout

Avoid the Dreaded Boardroom Burnout

The expectations for board members have been on a sharp rise for the past two decades. Companies are relying more and more on their directors both inside and outside of meeting settings, and with that dependence comes an often inevitable outcome: boardroom burnout.

Although directors at for-profit companies may feel this strain, it’s especially common among their nonprofit counterparts. Since nonprofit board roles are usually volunteer-based, it’s not uncommon for members to take early or unexpected exits from their positions. Here are some tips for avoiding “boardroom burnout” situations.

Recognize and establish limits

It may sound simple, but if you can’t tackle the extra hours needed to head up a committee or act as the board secretary, politely decline those leadership positions. It’s better to stay in a less demanding role (if you still feel connected to the cause) than it is to leave and force the organization to fill a void.
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Taking an Unpopular Stand as a Board Member

Individuality concept, birds on a wire

Disagreement is a natural part of the boardroom process. In fact, it’s an integral element in decision-making. Diversity of thought helps board members analyze their options from varying angles, which ultimately helps them make better choices as a collective.

From time to time, however, you may find yourself as the odd man out. First and foremost, don’t worry; it’s OK to take an unpopular stand, but there is a more effective way to way to do it. Here are our suggestions:

  1. Don’t go silent.

For many directors who realize they’ve adopted an unpopular stance, the choice to go silent makes the most sense. While you may believe that you’re being a better group member by bowing out of discussion, you could actually be doing a disservice to your board. Keep in mind that your opinion has equal value in the board setting, and you may be looking at a problem from a truly unique angle that others need to hear.
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Being a Better Nonprofit Board Member

People often assume that being a good nonprofit board member boils down to two basic capabilities: being a good fundraiser and being a good donor.
Better nonprofit board member

However, we know that being an outstanding nonprofit board member takes a whole lot more. As the world continues to be shaped and stimulated by the good work of nonprofit organizations, it’s important that board members embrace their full role in corporate governance.

They have the potential to help their organizations reach new levels of growth and impact.

Take Field Trips or Participate in Volunteer Events

First and foremost, board members should interact with their organization’s mission where it’s happening. Taking field visits is a great way to understand the nonprofit’s ultimate output. It also helps board members connect with their role in a more passionate way. Not to mention, these visits lead to enlightening questions from board members and an evaluative process to help the board strategize for an effective path forward.
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Effectively Vetting Board Candidates

effectively vetting board candidates

Company culture is extremely important to the success of any major company, but what about boardroom culture? How do board members ensure that incoming directors are the right fit for their team moving forward?

It all comes down to vetting the candidate and doing it well. Board members must go the extra mile to determine whether a nominee has what it takes to help the company succeed.

Here are a few suggestions for the vetting process:

Don’t be afraid to make them “tryout”

You read that right. Professional sports teams make potential new players tryout for their position, so why not extend that practice into the corporate world? Create a fake scenario in which the board member will have to make a difficult choice or confront a roadblock; use this exercise as a way to measure their ability to respond to challenges.

The decision they ultimately make in this trial is less important than the way in which they make it. Look for individuals who are willing to ask tough questions or who reach out for assistance when they feel like they need more expertise.
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Board Resignation: When and How?

board resignationThe fact of the matter is that board membership isn’t a lifelong commitment. Sure, some directors spend decades on a particular board, but others might serve happily for a couple of years before stepping down to pursue other goals.

There’s no right or wrong amount of time for board service; it all comes down to the individual. There are, however, some ways to know when it might be your time to move on.

You simply don’t have the time or the energy

These days, board service comes with some serious obligations. Board members should be thoughtful when deciding whether or not they should sign on for another year of service.

Personal events can come up as well as other business accountabilities. It’s always better to admit that you can’t keep up with the responsibilities than to be a lackluster director.

You disagree with a major operational decision

First and foremost, disagreements happen on boards; it’s just the nature of the role. Before you decide to jump ship based on a disagreement, be sure that it’s the right choice for the organization. If your differing opinion could be of assistance moving forward, that might be reason enough to stay and keep playing devil’s advocate.

It’s a tough choice to make, but if you feel like your divergence from the group will hinder the organization’s growth or future, it’s acceptable to confront that reality and politely resign.
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