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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. 

If you're interested in upping your game at the board table, no matter the size of your board or the type of organization you serve, subscribe below to receive a weekly link right in your email inbox.

Making Arguments with Impact

One skill that Savvy Directors are always interested in improving is their ability to make clear concise arguments. When their board is faced with a decision, they want to express their views on the issue and try to convince their fellow directors.
 
Having influence in the boardroom requires good communication skills, like active listening and knowing how to ask tough but fair questions. But sooner or later every director has to speak up – otherwise you might as well pack up and go home. And when you do choose to speak, you want to make sure your words have the impact you intended.
 
In the context of boardroom discussion, the word argument shouldn’t be seen as having a negative connotation. In fact, good, solid arguments are the basis of persuasive communication. You can think about them in the same way as a lawyer making legal arguments, or a debater presenting arguments for or against an issue. They’re intended to change people’s minds.
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The Fading Bright Line


Directors - both new and experienced – often struggle with differentiating their role from that of management. As a board member – whatever the nature of the organization you serve – you want to get a handle on your governance role.

“I would like to find out more about / receive a refresher on the division of governance and operations – what falls under governance, operations, or possibly joint responsibility.” – A Savvy Director reader

 “I found it hard not to dabble in operations - I know I tended to ‘takeover.’ That's a skill challenge worthy of sharpening up on, in my humble opinion.” – A Savvy Director reader

The traditional advice is that there’s a bright line between the role of the board and that of management. It’s an attractive idea, but the reality is not that simple.

 

What Bright Line?

There’s always a line down the center of the road, marking distinct lanes that keep...

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The Road Ahead

Late in the year we asked you - our readers - to share your issues, your concerns, and your challenges as you continue along your journey to be the most effective director you can be. We rely on your feedback to help us stay on track, so we can provide what board directors like you want and need for the road ahead, in 2022 and beyond.
 
And boy, did we get some valuable feedback! There’s no question about it – our readers are absolutely dedicated to this work. We’ve got enough to keep us going for the next 100 blog posts! Over the course of the coming year, look for content that responds to what you told us you need most.
 
Let’s start by sharing some of the great feedback we received. Take a look below – I’m pretty sure you’ll see that you’re not alone – that your personal challenges and concerns align strongly with what our readers told us they’re after.

 

What you enjoy most

Your responses to the...
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Sharpening the Saw

“Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you.” – Stephen R. Covey

It’s been 30 years since Dr. Stephen R. Covey published his bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but it’s still going strong. And one of the most enduring of Dr. Covey’s seven habits is to ‘Sharpen the Saw.’ It’s about taking the time for self-renewal - constantly improving to become our best selves.

For the Savvy Director, that means investing the time and energy to keep up-to-date on trends in board governance, and to stay connected to how the field is evolving to remain relevant in our rapidly changing world.

On that note, have you noticed that, as the year draws to a close, newspapers, magazines, and television have a habit of sharing their lists of 'Best Of … ' or 'Favorites' or 'Top' choices for books, movies, toys, gadgets … or whatever it is they are focused on?

This year at...

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The Savvy Director Celebrates 100

Today at DirectorPrep, we are celebrating our 100th post of The Savvy Director blog!
 
We published our very first, Why The Savvy Director? in October of 2019. Who knew how much the world would change in those two years?
 
Here’s how we introduced our new blog:
 
“This is a place for us to engage on topics that can help us on our respective journeys toward becoming savvy board directors – directors who are always prepared for our board meetings, ready to collaborate, contribute and influence decisions.
 
“This won’t be a blog for everybody. But it will be a place for directors interested in upping their game at the board table, no matter the size of the board or the type of organization.”
 
I sincerely hope that you, our readers, feel that we’ve lived up to that promise.
 
If you’ll indulge me, I’d love to take you on a stroll through The Savvy Director archives. For those who’ve been with...
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The Board's Campfire

 
Building a great board of directors is like building the perfect campfire. You have to picture how high the flames might leap or how far the sparks could fly.
 
I’ve had this metaphor in the back of my mind for some time. I’ve always been fascinated by fires – campfires as a Cub Scout camping in the Rockies, and now wood-burning fires in the old brick fireplace of our vintage home.
 
I snapped the photo above during one of my favorite moments - early on a cold weekend morning in the dead of winter, with the hounds at my feet and a piping hot mug of coffee in my hand. The hot coals are visible – hot enough to keep burning when new logs are added - even if they are a little ‘green’.
 
Trying to get a good fire going with firewood that’s unseasoned, frozen, or even worse, wet, is a challenge. No amount of newspaper, tree bark, or other incendiary aids will keep the fire going beyond the initial spark from a long fireplace...
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Risk Governance Revisited

Recently we re-published an earlier blog post, “What do I need to know about risk?” and shared The Savvy Director Guide to Risk with our subscribers as well as our network on LinkedIn.

Of course, there’s no way that a single blog post can cover the full breadth of a complex topic like risk. After all, there are entire books and courses of study devoted to the subject. Comments from some of our Savvy Director readers gave us great ideas for a follow-up blog on the topic.

Many thanks to those who shared their thoughts about additional concepts that Savvy Director readers could benefit from.

 

Risk Culture

Grant Griffiths, board advisor, commented,

“One thing I would add is culture, it is so important when it comes to the management and oversight of risk. Without a risk aware culture - driven from the board who set the tone - achieving effective management and oversight of risk becomes complicated and has less chance of succeeding.”

Implementing a...

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Where should I sit?

If your board is now contemplating the transition from virtual meetings back to in-person ones, you may once again be confronted with the dreaded decision, “Where should I sit?”

Okay, I get that this is not the most urgent and compelling matter in front of a board director, but it may actually cause you a small amount of anxiety when you're confronted with all those empty chairs. I know that, personally, I've been grateful for tent cards in such a situation.

Is there a right place and a wrong place to sit?

Well, as it turns out, this topic is the subject of scientific research! Who knew?

 

Picking the Right Seat

I found out everything I need to know about this topic from a website called Science of People. The information presented in this blog is drawn from an article entitled How to Pick the Right Seat in a Meeting EVERY Time by Vanessa Van Edwards.

It seems that where you sit in a meeting greatly affects people’s perceptions of you, your feelings toward...

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Getting a Handle on Inflation Risk

I’m willing to bet that the majority of Savvy Director readers are not economists or financial experts. And neither am I.
 
But a recent comment from DirectorPrep co-founder Dave Jaworski – following one of his board meetings – got us thinking about what the board needs to know about inflation, and what kind of questions might a director want to ask.
 
So, this week’s blog post will delve into how savvy board directors are thinking about inflation. But first, the big picture.

 

Inflation - Transitory or Persistent?

As board directors, we should have a basic understanding of how the economy works, and especially how economic realities impact the organizations we serve, whether for-profit or non-profit. Every organization – regardless of where it operates or what sector it’s in – is subject to fluctuations in the economy. And since our board deliberations are usually future-oriented, we need to consider not just the current...
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Governance in the News - Again

Several months ago, I posted a Savvy Director blog about two governance stories in the news (Governance in the News.)
 
 I said then – and I haven’t changed my mind – whenever you see the words ‘governance’ or ‘board of directors’ in a headline, it’s not going to make for a heartwarming read.
 
“Governance stories in the news tend to focus on conflict, crisis, and failure – shedding light on goings-on and machinations that were not meant to be in the public eye. However disturbing, these stories make fascinating case studies.” – The Savvy Director, ‘Governance in the News
 
This week we’ll take a look at a current story that has Canadian business reporters and governance experts mesmerized - the saga of Rogers Communications Inc.
 

First Some Background

If you live in Canada, you likely know the story. But The Savvy Director blog is fortunate to have readers...
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