As a keen observer of boards over many years, I’ve pretty much seen it all and can assure you of one thing: there are some characteristics that are mandatory if boards are to be successful in protecting an organisation’s culture and steering it on a path to growth and sustainability.
I like to think of these as the ‘Magnificent Seven’ characteristics of highly effective boards – and while magnificent in title, the great news is that they’re all down-to-earth, within our grasp and attainable.
First up is vision, without which we’re hurtling along blind-folded and out of control. That’s why all successful organisations buy into a strategic direction that captures the essence of where they hope to be – and what they hope to look like – five years hence. It’s then up to the board to ensure that the strategies support and achieve the vision.
Effective boards also have an insatiable thirst for every last drop of corporate governance knowledge and are keen to get it by learning from the best in the business, nationally, internationally and across all sectors of human endeavour. They’re not afraid to break the shackles of conventionality, step outside their comfort zones and sup with the finest minds, so to speak.
This leads us to the third characteristic, leading by example. We know an organisation’s culture starts at the very top and those at the top of their game invariably have board members who not only communicate but act in a manner befitting their station. In popular parlance, it’s about walking the talk.
Importantly, it’s also about empowering people across the organisation, from staff to management, and encouraging everyone to play an active role in shaping the business, and taking it forward in line with the agreed vision. You’ll be amazed how a little ‘power’ goes a long way in boosting job satisfaction and swelling profits.
Coming in at number five is an uncanny ability to measure success in its entirety and appreciate that a positive financial performance can only ever be part of the overall success story. Effective boards understand the importance of customer satisfaction in the equation, as much as they do that of staff satisfaction.
In our rapidly-changing world, if you’re standing still, you’re actually going backwards, so it’s time to challenge the status quo and think outside the box! The best organisations are constantly evolving, changing and improving the way things are done, with a vigorous board leading the charge. I think here of boards that have embraced our new world-first online portal subscription service, Board Minded, that, at the touch of a button and a time most convenient, delivers expert presentations to time-poor boards and board members so that they remain skilled in best practice governance.
And finally, there’s a time to stop talking and start listening, particularly to customers. They say the customer is always right and anyone with even a smidgen of an understanding of the retail environment will appreciate that you’re only as good as your last sale. That’s why it is critical for a board to keep its finger on the pulse when it comes to client and customer satisfaction and to have the tools to track performance and flag and address failings.
It’s now time for me to stop talking!
How does your board fare? What’s your score?
And what do you need to do to transcend the mundane and arrive at the magnificent?