Directors to Watch: Extensive Board Service Means Constant Learning
I joined my first public company board in 2014 and currently serve on the boards of a large family-owned company, a mutual fund complex, two private start-up boards and a significant nonprofit pension board. Although these companies are in regulated business lines, no matter where they are on the governance maturity scale, they are all “leveling up” on governance and addressing a widely expanded range of issues and concerns, including risk management, cybersecurity, political, climate change and social issues.
Most boards recognize the need for additional training and education, more robust director assessments and the benefit of having more perspectives and broader conversations in the boardroom. To facilitate enhanced board engagement, many firms are bringing diverse talent into the boardroom and encouraging courageous conversations. By strengthening the board, the company has the means to enhance profitability and sustainability while improving relationships with its many constituents.
As someone who enjoys continuous learning, I’ve broadened and deepened my preparation by engaging on a wider range of topics to deepen my understanding of issues and opportunities, in particular technology advances and applications, international cultural norms and history. Historical lessons from a myriad of institutions, including governments, religions, financial institutions and health care organizations, can illuminate the path for directors seeking to anticipate and address change.
Thinking “out of the box,” based on my experience and learnings, helps me bring new and informed ideas into the boardroom for consideration.
After spending time in several boardrooms, I realized that not every board, unlike many of their leadership team members, embraces continuous improvement. For example, a board assessment process that is aligned with the integrity of the C-suite assessment process is particularly valuable. Is the company holding its directors to the same or higher standards as its C-suite when assessing skills, business and strategic knowledge, creativity, willingness to address emerging issues and more? It’s important to field the best team possible both in management and in the boardroom. Another area of increasing importance and complexity is compensation, a critical tool to drive outcomes aligned with strategic objectives.