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.

The Ripple Effect

As individual directors, it can sometimes be difficult to see whether our words and actions in the boardroom have any effect whatsoever. This can be frustrating, to say the least. I've found that it’s especially hard for former CEOs, who are used to being the decision-maker in the room.

As opposed to the one person at the top of the org chart, the board of directors is a group of people, even though the board is said to “speak with one voice.” If there is only one voice to be heard externally, then it may seem like our individual voices are lost.

When I speak with board members, they are sometimes discouraged by the lack of a clear line of sight from what they have said in a board meeting to what the organization ends up doing. While it’s understandable, I personally think this frustration is somewhat misplaced. After all, a director’s insight is not binding. It’s just one step in a process, a step that others may end up building on.

Instead, I...

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You're Braver Than You Think

I’ve been meaning to write about governance courage for a while now. After all, it is one of The Six Key Habits of The Savvy Director.

And the Russell Reynolds research that inspired our Six Habits framework identifies ‘the courage to do the right thing for the right reason’ as one of the most important director behaviors that drive board effectiveness.

But the impetus for writing this particular blog at this particular point in time actually came from one of our Savvy Director readers, who responded to an earlier blog about Groupthink with the following comment:

“No one wants to be the director who disrupts the agreeable flow of the proceedings. But it is exactly this – sharing and listening to diverse views – that produces truly great outcomes at the governance level. The remedy don't let fear outweigh courage. You are at the table for a reason and remaining silent isn't it. Whatever you have to contribute is likely exactly what the...

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To Be or Not to Be ... Incorporated

I was recently surprised, and to be honest, somewhat embarrassed, to learn a professional organization I thought I knew well was legally structured as an ‘Unincorporated Association’ as opposed to a Non-Profit Corporation.

Initially, I have to admit I didn’t know what that meant. In all my board and related governance training, the focus has been on corporate governance of all types: non-profit, for profit, family businesses, private companies, and government crowns, boards and agencies.

These organizations were either legally established by articles of incorporation or by government statute. Always.

Although I am based in Canada and have earned director certification within the context of a Canadian legal system, I do know there are similar legal structures, sometimes under different names, to protect owners, members and boards from legal liability in the USA, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Mexico, and other countries as noted by the Global Network of...

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The Six Key Habits of The Savvy Director™

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a really effective board director? What differentiates a ho hum director from an excellent one? Which directors add real value to the boards they serve on vs. those who just occupy a chair?

In other words, what are the most important behaviors of an effective director?

Or as we would say at DirectorPrep, “What are the Key Habits of The Savvy Director™?”

Whether delivering governance training to a board of directors, conducting an orientation session for new directors, or mentoring an aspiring director, I would frequently encounter a similar question – just worded a little differently. I’d be asked “What do I actually have to do to be a good director?”

I didn’t have a clear, concise response for them so, with the help of my DirectorPrep co-founders, I’ve been working on a framework to summarize how an effective director actually behaves.

 

What’s with the...

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The ABCs of ESG

Like many fields of human endeavour, corporate board work is rife with acronyms. Remember CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)? How about DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion)? And of course, today’s topic, ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance).

I don’t know about you, but lately I can’t open my email box without reading about ESG. I guess it’s time for The Savvy Director™ to dig a little deeper to find out what it’s all about and what it means for board directors. Think of today’s blog as an ESG primer.

For many of us, ‘ESG’ brings to mind environmental issues like climate change, pollution and protection of natural resources. But it actually incorporates a broader view, including social issues like labor practices, product safety and data security, and governance matters like board diversity, executive pay and business integrity.

Why all of the attention to ESG these days? To answer that, we need to know a bit about its...

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Long Live the 'King'

Lately, I’ve had a number of conversations with board directors who feel they lack a strong financial background. They’ve expressed concern about their organizations’ financial metrics during these times. Specifically, they were wondering, “What are the forward-looking numbers we should be paying attention to?”

Today’s blog post sets out to answer that question. As a non-financial director myself, I reached out to some of the savvy directors in our network with the following question: “What budget line, metric or ratio do your eyes gravitate toward when prepping for your board meeting these days? What is getting your attention and what does it tell you?”

And I received a treasure trove of responses to share with you. Responses like …

“Cash is King … and Queen.”

“Tracking projected cash flow and managing balance sheet strength and liquidity is paramount - not only for survival, but for creating...

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The Dog Days of Summer

We’re officially in the dog days of summer. I like summer. I like dogs. So bring on the dog days.

As the old song said, ‘Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, those days of soda and pretzels and beer.’

This part of the year has always been a time to relax, get away with the family (and the family dog), do some light reading, and generally not be bothered with what is going on in the world around us. This year, that’s exceptionally hard to do. Especially the part about ignoring what is going on in the world around us. That’s basically impossible.

I guess you could say that, this year, the dog days of summer are ruff!

Seems like the perfect time to ask Alice Sayant, co-founder of DirectorPrep.com, to be our guest blogger!


Alice’s take on the dog days of summer

Why are they called dog days anyway? Common conjecture would have it that the name comes from weather that ‘isn’t fit for a dog’ or heat that is so extreme it...

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Banish Groupthink from the Boardroom

You’ve read the material. You’ve seen the presentation. You’ve listened to management’s request. Now it’s time for the board to make a decision. It’s an important decision, too. You’re expecting a robust discussion.

But the room is quiet. Maybe a couple of directors ask a question or two, just for clarification. Now it looks like the board chair is about to call for a vote.

What’s going on? Groupthink, that’s what. Your board has fallen victim to Groupthink.

We’ve all been there, at one time or another. I know I have. So, what can we do about it?

First, what is it?

 

What is Groupthink?

The term was coined in 1971 by psychologist Dr. Irving Janis, following extensive research on group decision-making. His findings came from research into why a team reaches an excellent decision one time, and a disastrous one the next.

Janis found that a lack of conflict or opposing viewpoints led to poor decisions, because...

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You've Got to Get the Big Things Right

After twenty years, it’s time to say goodbye to an old friend … my office chair.

We started the business together in the late ‘90s. We were successful. We collaborated through thick and thin literally. Always supportive, never a complaint. Until recently.

The business has changed. Yes, we’re still helping board directors prepare for board meetings, so they are ready to collaborate, contribute and influence decisions. That’s why our DirectorPrep.com™ catchphrase is ‘Ready for Your Board Meeting?’ But now, we’re moving our business online, we’re writing blogs, and we’re recording training videos.

We’ve had good luck so far producing videos that managed to avoid capturing the office chair’s squeaks and groans in the audio feed. But change is hard. I did what I could to help the old chair make the transition I applied some WD40, I tightened the screws, I kept it clean.

Despite knowing a replacement would...

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Skate to Where the Puck is Going to Be

Like so many Canadians, I’m looking forward to having hockey back in my life. If all goes according to plan (fingers crossed!), the NHL will be treating fans to playoff games very shortly, as teams compete for the 2020 Stanley Cup. There’ll be empty arenas, they’ll be playing in only two cities, and the players will stay in their own ‘bubbles’ for the duration – so it will definitely be a strange kind of play-off season.

But still – it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs! (Cue the theme to Hockey Night in Canada.)

So what does hockey have to do with The Savvy Director™? Read on …


The Great One

Wayne Gretzky is known as the greatest hockey player of all time. He was not just a fabulous player, but a great ambassador for the game. He was interviewed countless times and his quotes about hockey, and about life, are all over the internet.

Business leaders have gravitated to one quote in particular. Everyone from Steve Jobs to Warren...

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