How Can I Be a Good Board Member?
To provide insight into effective board membership, we’ve gathered twelve invaluable tips from top CEOs and CFOs. These leaders share their wisdom on everything from understanding the vision and advocating for stakeholders to avoiding conflicts of interest. Dive into their expert advice to enhance your role as a board member.
- Understand the Vision and Advocate for Stakeholders
- Commit to Continuous Learning
- Be Prepared and Opinionated
- Empower Leadership and Share Network
- Provide Insight, Even Secrets
- Prioritize Reading Board Papers
- Know, Speak, Collaborate
- Grasp Mission, Vision, and Goals
- Ensure Employee Happiness and Productivity
- Engage with Everyone
- Thoroughly Research the Organization
- Avoid Conflicts of Interest
Understand the Vision and Advocate for Stakeholders
As a CEO, my best tip for being a good board member is to actively engage, provide valuable insights, and prioritize the organization’s best interests. Here’s how a board member can excel in their role:
Prior to board meetings, thoroughly review all materials, reports, and financials. Come prepared with relevant questions and ideas to contribute constructively to discussions. Actively engage during meetings, expressing thoughtful opinions and offering solutions to challenges.
Then, fully grasp the organization’s mission, values, and long-term goals. Align your decisions and recommendations with these objectives, ensuring they support the company’s strategic direction.
Finally, act as an advocate for the interests of all stakeholders, including employees, customers, shareholders, and the community. Consider the broader impact of decisions on these groups and strive for outcomes that benefit everyone involved.
Commit to Continuous Learning
My top tip for being a good board member is to commit to learning. This means constantly educating yourself about your organization and the industry it’s in. Stay updated on current trends, challenges, and opportunities. Attend workshops, seminars, or webinars to improve your skills as a board member.
This continuous learning will help you make informed decisions and contribute effectively to the organization. It’s not just about what you already know; it’s about how willing you are to learn and grow. This dedication to learning shows your commitment to the role and helps ensure the organization’s success. So, keep learning and growing!
Be Prepared and Opinionated
In my experience, being a good board member means being prepared.
As a board member, you’re expected to have an opinion on everything. You’ll get asked questions about the company’s financials and operations, about its relationships with customers and vendors, and about its vision for the future. You’ll be asked what you think of this new product line or that new hire—and then expected to defend your position on those issues.
What I’ve found is that if I don’t have a suitable answer prepared ahead of time, it’s hard to come up with one off-the-cuff during a meeting. And that means I’m not only wasting everyone’s time by not being prepared—I’m also making them think less of me as an executive who can’t handle the pressure of making tough decisions under pressure. So my best tip for being a good board member would be: prepare!
Empower Leadership and Share Network
A big part of being a board member is empowering company or organizational leadership to lead. Every now and then, they’ll need your explicit skills and input. In most cases, they’ll need your blessings and connections. Be generous with your network. If you’re on a corporate board, you have social capital to offer. There is no reason to hold it back.
Provide Insight, Even Secrets
If you have agreed to be a board member and want to be a good one (which you should), you must provide real insight, even if you have to peel back the curtain on yourself and some of the “secrets” you keep close to yourself.
We all have little things we like to keep close to our chests as they might help us stay ahead of our competitors or get an upper hand on things, but as a board member, you should be completely open. Oftentimes, this is the insight they need from board members, whether it’s a new company trying to find its footing or an established company that needs direction.
You don’t have to share everything (if you don’t want to), but providing a bit of secret knowledge should be required.
Prioritize Reading Board Papers
What does it mean to be a good board member? You need an interest in the organization, particularly if non-executive. You need to act with integrity and honesty, of course. You must observe good governance, and that is a legal responsibility.
But aside from all the fiduciary duties, legal responsibilities, and passion, by far and away, the most important aspect is reading the board papers. The board meeting is a key event, and being well prepared for it is crucial to being a good board member. I have sat on a number of boards where it has become obvious one of the board members hasn’t read the papers, and it is very disruptive and disrespectful to colleagues. So if you want to be a good board member, read the papers, the board papers.
Know, Speak, and Collaborate
Want to shine like a disco ball in a dimly lit room? Listen up! According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, 72% of executives believe board quality is essential for success. It’s time to work that magic!
Dive into their world like a mermaid into the ocean. Understand their goals, challenges, and secret handshake. Also, make sure to speak your mind, not just your stomach. Don’t be a “yes” man; share your valuable insights and ideas like a pro.
Be a team player! Collaborate with your fellow board members like peanut butter and jelly. Embrace diverse perspectives like a patchwork quilt. Remember, being a board member is like being a superhero—use your powers for the greater good! So, go forth and rock that boardroom like a superstar!
Grasp Mission, Vision, and Goals
As a board member, it is paramount to fully grasp and internalize the organization’s mission, vision, and goals to contribute to its success effectively. Familiarizing yourself with these core elements allows you to align your efforts and decisions with the organization’s overarching purpose.
Understanding the mission clarifies the values and principles that guide the organization, while the vision offers a glimpse of its desired future state. Gaining insight into the specific goals and objectives ensures that your actions as a board member are geared towards achieving meaningful outcomes.
This comprehensive understanding not only aids in making well-informed decisions but also fosters a sense of commitment and dedication to the organization’s mission, driving your active engagement and collaborative approach in steering the organization toward sustained growth and prosperity.
Ensure Employee Happiness and Productivity
As a board member, you have a responsibility to ensure that the company is running smoothly and that the company’s mission is being carried out. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure all employees are happy and productive. If there are any issues in the workplace, it’s your responsibility to find out about them and fix them.
Engage with Everyone
One essential tip for being a good board member is to actively engage with fellow members and stakeholders. Open communication and collaboration are vital for effective decision-making and driving meaningful change within an organization.
One example that exemplifies this principle can be seen in the practice of conducting “walk-and-talk” meetings. Instead of confining discussions to a boardroom, some board members opt to hold informal meetings while taking a walk outdoors.
This approach encourages a relaxed atmosphere, promotes authenticity, and creates opportunities for more open conversations. By enabling individuals to connect on a personal level, these walk-and-talk sessions foster trust among
Thoroughly Research the Organization
To be a good board member, you have to speak with people who are familiar with the organization, visit its website, and study regulatory reviews and press coverage. Learn about the organization’s financial and operational performance, present risks and difficulties that require board monitoring, and future goals. Learn everything you can about what the board does and its priorities.
It is critical that you understand how the board develops and replenishes its collective skills and experience, as well as how it helps individual board members. Learn how the board analyzes its collective performance and effectiveness, as well as how board member performance is evaluated. This activity will generate some questions for you to ask the chair, chief executive, or board when you meet them.
Avoid Conflicts of Interest
Avoiding conflicts of interest is one of your key priorities as a board member. You need to ensure that whatever actions you take are always in the best interest of the company in question. This can be hard to do if you have competing priorities, and it’s a good way to ensure the company in question performs poorly under your guidance.
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