The world can change a lot in eight years. Heck, in 2003, Mark Zuckerberg was still a Harvard student.
But it was in 2003 that I first presented to an audience on the topic of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Boards.”
It’s a simple list.
- Get the best people & drop the bad ones
- Focus like a laser on the mission
- High quality information
- Tear down unneeded bureaucracy
- Lead change, don’t resist it
- Clearly define roles and responsibilities
- Conduct regular self evaluations
It’s remarkable that the same list still applies today.
One of the toughest ones on there is the first one. In the end, Boards are all about people. But many Boards settle for not having the best people—or keeping people who aren’t engaged on the Board.
A few practical strategies can help:
—Look more broadly for Board members. There are sources like the Board talent bank at http://www.boardoptions.com/ that provide names you may not have thought of involving;
—Avoid “chains of leadership succession”. I’m not a big fan of officer systems where someone starts with assistant secretary then “rotates through the chairs” to each officer position through Chair. Too often, if you discover someone doesn’t work out in the first position, you’re stuck with a inexorable process.
—Provide graceful outs. Shorter term lengths allow Board members to decide on their own terms when its time to step down—even without term limits, a short term length forces an affirmative decision to stay engaged.
–Have “good standing” requirements. Many organizations have requirements that if someone misses two out of three meetings, they’re deemed to have resigned from the Board or, at a minimum, have lost their ability to vote.
In coming weeks, we’ll take a look at some of the other “habits” that drive the best Boards and contribute to outstanding governance.