What Makes a Board Successful

FEBRUARY 15, 2018

Building a successful board is more than just appointing members and holding monthly or quarterly meetings. Follow these four points to set your board, and company, on the path to success.  

Well-defined purpose.
Before choosing members for a board of directors or advisory board, the CEO must determine what purpose his or her board will serve. Whether the purpose is to provide independent advice for the CEO and management team or assist with large-scale business development initiatives, defining the purpose of your advisory board should be determined early on. A clearly defined purpose for your board will act as a blueprint every step of the way, from growth management to financial planning and provides a measurable standard of success as you progress.

Board composition that is relevant to the purpose.
With the purpose of a board established, composition should come somewhat easily. First and foremost, recruit directors or advisors who best meet the criteria of the board. Boards should be comprised of senior-level executives whose experience and skills relate to the overarching business interests of the board. If a company is looking for advice, contacts and expertise across multiple disciplines, then it is important to mirror this diversity in the board’s composition. If they are in need of a focused group to bring heavy expertise in one key business area, a more homogenous group is warranted. In an ideal scenario, the combined collection of background, skills and experience of a board should mirror the company’s objectives. This provides a CEO with strategic partners to bullet-proof ideas and ask for advice that will help him or her reach their end goal.

Committed board members.
Without committed members, a board has no chance to succeed. Build a team of dedicated members who possess a strong work ethic that drives them to not only attend meetings, but also go above and beyond to engage with the company’s executive team, offer resources or points of contacts and participate in special committees during times of crisis. It is important to remember that most board members are also active executives within their own organizations, so they may not be available 24/7. However, that should not stop them from being a contributing member of the team. Ask in advance if each board member is able to devote the time required of them.

Transparent and respectful culture.
A successful board should be made of members who value collaboration, honesty and mutual respect. This creates a culture that welcomes independent ideas, sound judgment and constructive feedback required when overcoming challenges or obstacles. Fostering this ideal culture can only be achieved with members who take their role seriously, remain calm under pressure and can work as a team player without becoming competitive with fellow members or opposing ideas. Members who are overly arrogant or domineering tend to hinder a board’s progress rather than nourish it. Try to avoid this by focusing on appointing board members who embody the company’s core values. Positive personal attributes are just as important as experience when it comes to assessing a new board candidate.

Like any asset in business, an advisory board or board of directors is an investment, and with the right members it can yield amazing returns that compound meeting after meeting and year after year. If managed well, an advisory board can act as an accelerator to increasing revenue and generating greater productivity.

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