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The Savvy Director Blog

Welcome to The Savvy Director™ blog, a place to engage on board governance topics as you travel the path to being a savvy director. 

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How Many Boards Is Too Many?


Once you’ve established yourself as a director on one board, you may very well find that you’re being approached to serve on one or more additional boards.

Is saying “yes” a good idea? What should you think about before deciding? And what is the ideal number of boards to serve on?

As so often with the topics we explore in The Savvy Director, the answer is, “It depends.” In this case, it depends on some very personal considerations, such as the stage of your career, your family situation, and how board work fits into your life.


Two Issues to Consider

In general, there are two main factors to take into consideration - time commitments and conflict of interest.

Time Commitments. Research tells us that, these days, directors spend from 200 to 300 hours per year on each board they serve. That figure includes regular board and committee meetings and preparation time. Add to that the occasional need for special board or committee meetings...

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How Do We Make Money?


You may find the term “business model” thrown around in the boardroom.

In this Savvy Director article, we’ll explore what it means, how it differs from strategy, and what the board’s role is, and what directors need to know to fulfill their role with respect to the organization’s business model.

And if the board you serve is in the non-profit sector, not to worry. There’s plenty here for you as well.


What is a business model?

The term business model is one of those things people recognize when they see it but can’t quite define.

In brief, a business model answers the fundamental question, “What business are we in and how do we make money?” It’s a framework for describing the way an organization operates - the way it provides value to customers, and how and by whom that value is paid for in a way that covers costs and makes a sustainable profit.

For a non-profit, it could be a framework for how the...

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Asking Follow-Up Questions

A week or so before a board meeting, savvy directors start their PREP work to make sure they’ll be ready to take an active part in the meeting and add real value to the board’s discussions. Part of their PREP work is compiling a list of potential questions to ask – the kind of great questions that get to the heart of issues and help the board move forward.

The management team is probably thinking about questions too. What questions might they have for board members that will help draw out the insight and foresight that the board is there to provide? And what questions might they anticipate receiving in response to their reports, presentations, or proposals?

Here at DirectorPrep we’re heartily in favor of arriving at the meeting with a list of prepared questions in your pocket. In fact, doing so is one of The Six Key Habits of The Savvy Director. But it’s important to recognize that, if you rely solely on your prepared list, you won’t be as...

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Strategic Thinking Skills

Every board of directors is looking for strategic thinkers. And if you’re working on your Board Value Proposition, you’ll probably want to highlight your own skills in that area.

So, what exactly are we talking about when we refer to strategic thinking skills?

I searched in vain for a standard definition of the term “strategic thinking,” but I found there really isn’t one. Still, there’s been a lot written about how important these skills are for decision-makers.

So, let’s explore the value that strategic thinkers bring to your board. And, for those who wouldn’t describe themselves as a strategic thinker just yet, let’s take a look at a few tips for how to develop your own skills.


Strategic Thinking and the Board

Why is strategic thinking so important to a board of directors? Because, when it’s done well, it ultimately leads to a clear set of goals, plans, and new ideas required for organizations to survive and...

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Evaluating Board Meetings

This is the last in a series of four Savvy Director articles dealing with various aspects of board and director evaluation. The first two articles in the series, “From Compliance to Improvement” and “From Evaluation to Action,” explored the board evaluation process, and the third, “Evaluating the Individual Director,” dealt with director self-assessments and peer evaluations.

When it comes to the board of directors, board meetings are where pretty much everything that matters gets done – ideas are expressed, discussions take place, and decisions get made.

It stands to reason that evaluating board meetings is an important factor in monitoring the board’s effectiveness. For the most part, there’s a high correlation between productive board meetings and board performance. A well-run board meeting may not be a guarantee of board effectiveness, but it’s a strong indication.

Getting a handle on how directors view their board...

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Evaluating the Individual Director

This is the third in a series of four Savvy Director articles dealing with various aspects of board and director evaluation. The first two articles in the series, “From Compliance to Improvement” and “From Evaluation to Action,” explored the board evaluation process. The fourth will deal with meeting evaluations.

We’ve spent the last two Savvy Director articles delving into the process of evaluating the board of directors – looking at areas such as governance, performance, oversight, dynamics, and engagement. The focus of these evaluations is the effectiveness of the board as a whole, with an eye to continuous improvement of how the board operates and governs the organization.

But, when you stop to think about it, a board of directors is a group of individuals working together. It stands to reason that the effectiveness of the board as a whole depends at least somewhat on the performance of each individual. So, should a really robust board...

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From Evaluation to Action

This is the second of a series of four Savvy Director articles dealing with various aspects of board and director evaluation. The first article in the series, “From Compliance to Improvement,” explored various approaches to the board evaluation process. The third and fourth in the series will deal with individual director evaluations and meeting evaluations.

“The truth is that every director wants to serve on a great board. Every Board Chair wants to lead a great board. Every Chief Executive Officer and senior team wants to work with a great board. What’s often missing is a vehicle to shift a board from good to great and maintain a great board’s vibrancy.” – Beverly A. Behan

If you’ve read our first article in this series, “From Compliance to Improvement,” you’ve probably realized that the board invests a great deal of its time, effort, and resources into the evaluation process. How do we, as directors, ensure that...

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From Compliance to Improvement

This is the first of a series of four Savvy Director articles dealing with various aspects of board and director evaluation. Our next article, “From Evaluation to Action,” will explore key success factors, followed by articles on the topics of individual director evaluations and meeting evaluations.

“How do you take a board that’s good – and make it truly great? How do you take a board that’s great and retain its vibrancy over the years? The answer, believe it or not, is with a board evaluation.” – Beverly A. Behan, author of Board and Director Evaluations: Innovations for 21st Century Governance Committees

Once upon a time, the annual board evaluation was merely a “check-the-box” compliance exercise – a task the board was expected to perform to assess its past performance. Depending on the sector, some boards were expected – or even required – to disclose their evaluation process to stakeholders.

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Boardroom Imposters

by Alice Sayant, ICD.D

It seems that lately, everywhere I go, someone is talking about imposter syndrome.

First it was a recent Savvy Saturday online discussion about Cultivating Your Influence in the Boardroom.

Then a conversation with board directors at the inaugural Women Get on Board Summit.

And then, just the other day, a chat with a friend during a brisk walk in the park to mark spring’s arrival (finally!) on the Canadian prairies.

You see where this is going, of course. At DirectorPrep, our natural response to such a series of events is to write a Savvy Director article about imposter syndrome in the boardroom.


What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the thought or fear that you are not capable, worthy, or good enough to be included in a particular group — such as a board of directors — or to fulfill a certain role — such as that of a board director.

People experiencing imposter syndrome believe they’re undeserving of their...

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Bringing Design into the Boardroom

One of my favorite things about my role at DirectorPrep is that, when I come across a new idea or an interesting concept in the world of board governance, I get to share it with our Savvy Director readers.

That’s how today’s blog came about. While researching an entirely different topic, I came across a series of articles from the Institute of Directors of New Zealand (IoD NZ) about applying the principles and practices of design thinking in the boardroom.

I found the concepts to be quite compelling. I hope you do too.


What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is an ideology and a process for solving complex problems in a user-centric way. It focuses on achieving practical results that are technically feasible, economically viable, and meet a real human need.

From its origins as a way of teaching engineers how to approach problems creatively, design thinking evolved into a way of thinking in the fields of science, design, engineering and eventually business. It...

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