January 4, 2024

TPL Insights #203 – Influence In The Boardroom And Meaningful Thoughts On Building A High-Performance Board Part 2

By Talybra Hollins

In the realm of board leadership, the words of Carnegie echo a timeless truth – true influence stems from genuine connections, the nurturing of relationships, and adding substantial value to others’ lives. Regardless of board member types or the position of those approaching them, the goal is to establish relationships that bring mutual value (Carnegie, 2011). Board dynamics, much like any team in the corporate landscape, demand effective leadership and strategic approaches. This article delves into the various types of board members and offers insights on how to influence them positively, with a particular focus on creating systems that deter individuals who may not be the right fit for your board.

From another perspective, board leadership doesn’t vary from any other team dynamic you face in the workplace today with your executive leaders. In fact, the same leadership competencies relevant to your operative team should be applicable to the board members. Furthermore, your approach should not vary when discovering any unhealthy habits over time. Just as Peterson and Falcão discovered, individuals who join the board sometimes require a little more TLC. The more pointed question is, how do you create systems that ensure board members exude your leadership requirements?

At Allen Austin, we can confirm that varying personalities can infiltrate the board and be more challenging than hoped. We encourage you to read through the tips that were provided in the article (HBR 6 Kinds of Board Members), as they are a great way to navigate those relationships should they occur. (2023, Peterson & Falcão)

What we would like to offer today are a few tips (out of many) on how to deter individuals that are not the right “fit” for your board. We will start with the basics today:

Tip #1: Perform a Gap Analysis

It is important to understand what your organization needs and how to fill in the gaps that are missing for optimal performance. Getting the key stakeholders to engage in the process helps ensure you identify individuals aligned to culture, purpose, mission, and values. The gap analysis also helps understand the technical skills the prospect possesses to advance the organizational goals.  At Allen Austin, we take pride in offering support around this and helping organizations identify the right type of candidate. Who you bring on matters!

Tip #2: Create a Screening Questionnaire

 At Allen Austin, we believe leaders should hire and fire around the purpose, mission, and values defined by the organization. We cannot stress this enough. Finding suitable board members requires a proper vetting system in the recruiting phases. The screening questions should help you understand the attributes of each leader and better identify their propensity to lead. If done well, the types of board members described by Peterson and Falcão can be minimized, or even avoided.

 Tip #3: Clear Expectations

 If you are reviewing expectations after the offer, it is too late. Ensuring the board member receives a clear understanding of what you are looking for (i.e., job description) and the expectations of their role, mitigates many challenges over time. While there will be disagreements or what I love to call “passionate discussions” on strategic efforts, you want someone who will abide by the rules of engagement for the betterment of the organization. The prospective board member you select should have the opportunity to opt out from the beginning, and, frankly, so should you. Below are some examples of what should be discussed:

  1. Compensation
  2. Time and commitment
  3. Participation in initiatives
  4. Project scope expectations
  5. Staff engagement
  6. Ethical standard

While no efforts are bullet proof when it comes to board recruitment, having systems in place will help keep the narcissist, the data chaser, the status hound, the deferential, the stakeholder champion, and the unprepared at bay. (2023, Peterson & Falcão) We again encourage you to see how to influence these leaders by reading the following article. Click here: HBR 6 Types of Board Members.

As for Allen Austin, we look forward to bringing you more tips and best practices regarding board leadership throughout 2024.

References

Carnegie, D. (2011). How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

Peterson, R. S., & Falcão, P. F. (2023, December 20). 6 Kinds of Board Members — and How to Influence Them. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2023/12/6-kinds-of-board-members-and-how-to-influence-them