“Execution is the great unaddressed issue in the business world today.”

Business @ the Speed of Stupid,
Dan Burke & Alan Morrison
 

“Each person’s strengths are created—developed from some very specific raw materials. You can acquire some materials, your knowledge and skills, with practice and learning; others, your talents, you simply have to hone.”

Now, Discover Your Strengths,
Marcus Buckingham &
Donald O. Clifton
 

“Leaders learn from their mistakes.”

Leader to Leader, Frances
Hesselbein & Paul M. Cohen

 

“The essence of formulating competitive strategy is relating a company to its environment.”

Competitive Strategy,
Michael E. Porter
 

“Leaders have more trouble than anybody else when it comes to candid feedback, particularly about how they’re doing as leaders.”

Primal Leadership,
Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee
 

“The great organization must not only accommodate the fact that each employee is different, it must capitalize on these differences.”

Now, Discover Your Strengths,
Marcus Buckingham &
Donald O. Clifton
 

“The challenge of mastering leadership is a skill like any other, such as improving your golf game or learning to play slide guitar.”

Primal Leadership,
Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee
 

”Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively.”

The Fifth Discipline,
Peter M. Senge
 

“Well-managed business processes, supported by an appropriate organizational structure, are the only defense you have; your company’s efficiency and effectiveness are almost solely dependent on them.”

Business @ the Speed of Stupid,
Dan Burke & Alan Morrison
 


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ARE YOU READY TO JOIN?

NEARLY EVERY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSPERSON WILL, AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER, BE ASKED TO JOIN AN OUTSIDE ORGANIZATION. IT MAY BE A NON PROFIT, CIVIC OR COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION THAT WORKS FOR THE GREATER GOOD, OR POSSIBLY A FORTUNE 500 COMPANY LOOKING FOR GREATER SUCCESS.

Not everyone who is invited, however, should leap to serve. While it is flattering to be asked, it is also important to be certain that the board whose membership you are considering is a good match for your interests and level of commitment. Board membership is more than just a vanity position for executives or a way to display an organization’s “trophy” supporters, it also carries inherent obligations. Board membership is about effective decision-making. It doesn’t matter whether you are considering a position to provide governance for a small non-profit group or for a large multi-national corporation, accepting a board position implies and demands acceptance of responsibilities, behaviors and accountability to an organization and its varied stakeholders. These are serious issues that require serious commitment. Are you ready to make that commitment?

DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before you do anything else, learn. Learn everything you can about the organization and its board. Start with the practical issues: How often do they meet? For how long and where do meetings take place? What is the format of the meeting? How formal is the conduct of the board? Next, obtain a definition of your role: How is the work of the board done? How are committees used? Will you be expected to serve on these committees? Do you understand the relationship between management and board members? Is the management team accountable to the board? What is expected of you? Are you required to assist with fundraising efforts? For instance, there is tremendous difference between serving on your local Chamber of Commerce and being a member of the board of a large public company.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about financial issues. Find out what kinds of materials are available to you. Ask for audits and financial statements, review the minutes and materials from prior meetings, read the bylaws and annual reports. Apply the same due diligence and care to this decision that you would to making a decision in your own business.

Governing boards, no matter the size of the organization, need to act as a team to be effective. While this sounds like an obvious concept, knowing the individual personalities involved is just as important as understanding the issues. Speaking to current board members is a good place to start. Ask them questions. Find out: What is the overall feeling of the board? Which are the key issues? How well does the board function with management? What is really expected of you? What are the main roadblocks to success? Who are the primary players?

Understanding the stakeholders is vital. Who are they? Are you dealing with investors? Employees? Organization members? Whole communities? Local government? What is their level of involvement? Sit down with your contact and discover all you can. Know what’s going on before you make a commitment.

YOU’RE IN!
Congratulations! You are now a board member. Understanding your role will ultimately determine how successful you are as a board member. Your first job is to listen. Listen to everyone – to board members, to staff, to stakeholders. The total is greater than the sum of the parts – you are a part of a team, all working with the same objective to share your skills and talents to best serve the organization. One of the most important attributes of any board member is respect: respect for the board, respect for board members, respect for the organization. You can show respect by coming to meetings prepared, being courteous to fellow members and not monopolizing time. Time is short, and everyone cannot be heard on every issue. It really is quality, not quantity that counts.

It is your experience and knowledge that made you a desirable board candidate. Now, as a board member, you need to apply those abilities to your service. At times, it may be necessary to challenge the status quo, new strategies and plans, or other board members. Challenge is a necessary part of growth for any organization or company. It may not be easy, but it is your duty to act in what you see as the best interests of the organization. There are appropriate times and forums for voicing objections. Your best opportunity for challenge may occur outside of the formal structure of a meeting.

It is always difficult to balance the need for input from a diverse group and the necessity of obtaining a consensus in order to move forward. There is tremendous value in frank and honest discussion, but the parameters for such discussions should be clear: these are not personal issues; they are issues of importance to the organization. Be objective; be focused; be respectful of the views of others. In the end, the entire board is responsible and accountable for the decisions that are made.

GETTING RESULTS
One of the single most important mandates of any board member is success, however that is defined by the organization or corporate entity. It is the board, not just management, which gives direction to an organization. More and more, boards and board members are taking an active role in strategy, direction and policy-making for the entities they serve. Focusing on decisions and actions that are in keeping with the philosophy and goals of the organization are paramount. How do you determine the path to success? Think long term; think past your tenure on the board. Make every decision an important one. Do your job as a board member – don’t neglect your role, or fail to give the proper importance to your duties. Stay on target. Accept responsibility for your decisions, without dwelling on the failures – learn from them. Inspire action and dedication in your fellow board members. You can be an example to others.

Board membership is a valuable way to share your expertise and experience with the community or other organizations. Participation on a board can broaden your exposure to ideas and business practices, contribute to the community or special interest group, stretch your mind, or increase your income. Remain focused and on task, and the opportunities for you will be rewarding.