Cultivating Better Boardroom Conversations

better boardroom conversations

Every board meeting is different; in fact, a meeting that’s relatively dull and discussion-less might follow a meeting comprised of contentious and heated debate.

There isn’t a “right” kind of meeting, but there are some ways to help ensure that you’re getting the most out of your in-meeting conversations.

Don’t avoid disagreements; give them a structure

Many individuals are conflict-averse, but the truth is that board meetings sometimes demand that two sides state their cases for different paths forward.

Some of the best boardroom discussion can come from a debate-style format, but that’s the trick—the moments of disagreement should feel heavily controlled like they would in an actual debate competition.

In other words, set time limits for laying out arguments. Give individuals a structure that ensures balanced speaking time. When directors feel as though they have an equal opportunity to speak, it’s easier to focus on the topic at hand rather than on potential unfairness.
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Finding the Balance Between Board and Management

balance between board and management

Boards of directors and management executives are integral to the success of any major company and finding the right balance in board management is key. Although they’re constantly communicating, they serve in very different roles.

The board, which is meant to contain an appropriate mix of “outside” and “inside” directors, acts as the guiding force for the company while the CEO and other c-suite leaders carry out their plans for the future.

That’s not to say that forward progress and change can’t come directly from the CEO, though.

Duties of the Board

At the end of the day, the board has the final say when it comes to making major decisions for the organization it serves. The entity is expected to uphold its fiduciary duties to the shareholders above all else. In addition, the board hires/fires CEOs, votes on important policies, safeguards resources, and more. For a more in depth explainer of these responsibilities, visit our Board Membership 101 blog series.
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Board Membership 101: Board Member Policy

board member policy

Policy-making may not be the most fun side of board membership, but it is an absolutely vital corporate director duty. Company policies affect every aspect of governance and decision-making—from CEO selection to board management guidance and beyond.

In a time when expectations for board members are soaring, policy-making has also become a significant way to reduce risk.

According to Mitch Dorger, experienced CEO and governance consultant, boards should be creating a strong policy focus. He writes, “Clear, concise and current policies improve the overall management of the organization…By having these documented, …[the board] speaks with one voice—avoiding a problem that many organizations have with multiple sources of policy guidance.” Unfortunately, many boards struggle to maintain a policy focus.

Dorger continues, “When I was still a chief executive officer, I led an effort to get my board to establish and document the policies that were needed to govern the organization…When I talked to the board about creating a policy focus, there was some confusion about what policies are and what they are not.”
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Board Membership 101: Strategic Guidance

Board Membership 101: Strategic Guidance

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.

He may not have known it at the time, but when Warren Bennis (American scholar and pioneer of Leadership Studies) penned those words, he was aptly explaining what strategic guidance means for the boardroom today.

Directors must be prepared not only to envision the future of the company, but also to find the best way to guide it into the fulfillment of that vision.

To understand what strategic guidance means exactly, we must take a look at the two words individually.

Strategy

Crafting company strategy is an essential function of a board of directors. Simply stated, board members must bring their assortment of individual knowledge and experience to the table in order to seek out the best path forward for the business.

Strategic thinking takes many elements into consideration: goal setting, prioritization, realistic financial planning, and more. The expectation is that board members should be looking at the horizon rather than at the ground beneath their feet.
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Board Membership 101: Fiduciary Duties

Board Membership 101: Fiduciary Duties

The foundation of a board member’s service is their fiduciary duty to shareholders. Before we jump into what kinds of duties are involved, let’s look more closely at the word “fiduciary:”

fiduciary
(adjective): involving trust, especially with regard to the relationship between a trustee and a beneficiary.

It’s a word that we hear a lot in the corporate world, but its basic meaning often gets overlooked. Simply put, the word fiduciary is all about trust, and that’s exactly what’s required of directors under corporate governance law.

The Three Types of Fiduciary Duties:

  1. The Duty of Care

According to Investopedia, the duty of care “applies to the way the board makes decisions that affect the future of the business. The board has the duty to fully investigate all possible decisions and how they may impact the business. Because a company’s board of directors is tasked with making very important decisions, it is necessary that each member takes each issue seriously and adequately considers all options.”

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Board Membership 101: The Role of a Board of Directors

Present day corporate directors are faced with increasing responsibilities, expectations, and risks. Over the last twenty years, government standards for board oversight have grown more stringent than ever as the role of a board of directors evolves.

Role of the Board

But why exactly do boards of directors exist, and what is the role of a board of directors? Ultimately, boards exist to provide strategic oversight for a company and to protect shareholders’ financial interests.

In order to accomplish those goals, individuals who wish to serve on a board must be willing to take on the responsibilities expected of a director.

Below, you’ll find eight factors that outline the role of a board of directors.

  1. Provide strategic guidance.

Literally, board members are expected to provide the vision, mission, and goals for an organization. Metaphorically, they’re also responsible for the “big picture” vision for the company: where is it currently headed? Where does the company want to go from here?
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The Benefits of Diversity in the Boardroom

DiverseOver the last two decades, corporate board diversity has been growing steadily. In 2015 women held nearly 18% of the board positions at Fortune 1000 companies—a percentage that has doubled over the last 20 years.

As for racial minorities, they hold about 15% of board roles in Fortune 250 companies and are continuing to make gains.

Regardless of where the current statistics fall, though, the bottom line is that studies show diversity in the boardroom brings many benefits.

We’ve compiled a few of these benefits to share with you:

A diverse boardroom provides a diversity of thought

All board members bring their own personal background and experiences to their position in the boardroom. Each individual mind is capable of offering unique ideas, solutions, and strategies. For boards with a more diverse membership, the breadth of personal experience is wider and more comprehensive.

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Board Member Success Tools

If you follow many of the major business news sites, you’ll find a lot of advice about what makes a board of directors truly successful. Some argue that it’s a commitment to diversity, and others insist that you need to have outstanding leadership.
board member success tools

Some writers advocate that you need to find members who have all the right qualities. We agree with all of these articles, but we also believe that companies and organizations have an obligation to give their board members the right tools to succeed, and board of directors software definitely fits that bill.

Board members tend to be busy individuals. They may be C-level executives from other companies or business owners themselves. Whatever their backgrounds might be, board members’ time is a precious commodity.

And what better way to make use of it than to streamline all of their communications for their roles on your board of directors? Board management software simplifies the way that organizations share information with their boards while also encouraging collaboration among members.

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Characteristics of the Best Board Members

By Brent Peinhardt

Last week we talked about how to have the most engaged board members. But before you can engage your members, you need to find them, and we all want the absolute best board members out there. What qualities make up the “best board member”?
They are:

  • Engaged
  • Competent/experienced
  • Passionate
  • Deeply knowledgeable in industry(ies) or subject matter(s)
  • Excellent communicators
  • Objective/independent
  • Tactful/empathetic

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