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Effective Boards

Board games, team players

It’s the stuff of Hollywood drama and CEO nightmares. Dysfunctional boards of directors – at least in movies and bad dreams – can be the source is interminable meetings, uninspired deliberation, corporate gridlock and even hostile power grabs.

In everyday business life, however, a board of directors doesn’t have to be anything like that. A great board should involve a group of engaged thought-leaders, diverse professionals and perhaps a few entrepreneurial superstars. This dynamic team will help tackle key challenges, explore growth opportunities, grapple with succession, and strategically advance the company. So, how do you create a highly talented and effective board for your company?

Map skills and needs

Begin by analyzing the strengths of current board members and identify skills gaps that should be filled by future members. A fully capable board of directors typically includes folks with industry and management expertise, plus specialists in finance, law, human resources, technology, risk, governance, innovation and markets—to name a few.

The board’s nominating committee should focus on candidates with proven qualifications, said Margaret Pederson, President and CEO of Amirexx LLC “Many people want to be considered for board positions when they are years away from being appropriate candidates. People have asked me, ‘Do I have to fully understand a P&L to sit on the board?’ They should have run a P&L before they join a board.”

Diversify, diversify

Many board meetings, unfortunately, still live up to the stereotype of being gatherings of older, white men. Improving diversity within boards is essential, Peterson said, “but I define it as diversity of thought, experience and expertise. The board needs to fully represent the world that the company serves, and be able to communicate with all company stakeholders, especially customers and employees. You want to have a diverse slate of candidates that understand markets across various income levels, geographies, cultures and other demographics.”

Value soft skills

Just as any new employee should fit well with the company’s culture, new board members need to blend well with the board’s culture. A board candidate’s communication style, priorities, personality and even emotional intelligence should be considered to determine how that person would interact with existing board members.

When creating or adding to a board, make the effort to craft an effective team that will collaborate well, challenge and inspire each other, and respect differing points of view. Ultimately, it will help your board achieve its goals of providing leadership oversight, making the best decisions, and advancing critical business strategies.