Guiding boards. Growing business.

Dynamics of a High-Performing Board

When you think of a high-performing board, what do you see in your mind’s eye? A group of individuals all smiling and high-fiving around a boardroom table? Typical stock images would have all of the carefree board members seated in a colossal corner office overlooking the city while studying a slide of a growing graph showing their great goal achievement. 

The truth is that boardrooms are seldom as they are portrayed. While they are thinktanks of greatness, success isn’t guaranteed. And people don’t agree on everything all of the time – which is a good thing in fact. 

To be a truly high-performing board requires many aspects and includes actions outside of the boardroom as well.

Beyond the Actual Meeting

Working well together as a board takes much more than just meeting regularly; the bigger picture needs to consider purpose, process and people:

  • Purpose: All board members need to understand and buy into where the business aims to be, where it actually and realistically is headed, and what achievements need to be realised along the way to achieve ultimate success. The chairman needs to lead this vision in a manner that satisfies shareholders, enthuses board members, invigorates employees, and inspires stakeholders. This requires understanding what the business needs, based on where it is at.
  • Process: Directing thoughts, decisions and actions according to a well-structured board calendar that ensures that all essential aspects (governance, evaluations, director rotations if necessary, etc.) are covered during the year helps to keep board members focused and to support tracking progress.
  • People: An effective board requires having a balance of different natural energies around the boardroom table. If everyone is good at coming up with ideas (are high in activating energy), it is unlikely that ideas will become reality. Without refining energy, it is unlikely that aspects will be thought through as needed to remain aligned to the strategy. A good balance of skills, expertise and natural energy allows for a balanced approach to decision-making which serves growth and goal achievement well.

Before the Board Meeting

Besides balancing personal dynamics, it is important that meeting content is balanced. By constructing a meaningful agenda, it is simpler to gauge how much time and focus operational versus strategic versus governance aspects are enjoying – or not. 

It is essential that accurate board packs are received by all board members with enough time to prepare thoroughly. Of course, this goes beyond the company secretary who cannot collate what has not been provided by the directors. Leveraging a board portal assists with collaboration as it allows for making last-minute changes quickly and provides a central platform that doesn’t require searching through emails or relying on even less secure methods. 

Once board packs are received, it is essential that board members use their meeting preparation time to ensure that they understand progress made since the last meeting, note any questions that they have for their fellow directors, familiarise themselves with any new challenges that have arisen and prepare the answers to questions that others may have.

During the Board Meeting

The chairman of the board must be in control of the meeting, ensuring that deviations from the agenda are kept to an absolute minimum. It is also up to him or her to start the meeting on time, to control rambling conversations, to allow for sufficient candour, and to confront and address issues that could get in the way of achieving the board’s mandate.

After the Board Meeting

Between board meetings is when the actual work is meant to get done. This requires ensuring that management is informed of decisions made, empowered to act on those decisions and supported where assistance is required. Without this happening, you will be left with a parking lot of matters arising that never gets completed.