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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 bi-weekly link right in your email inbox.

The Ego Paradox

“The paradox of board leadership is that, while you might earn a seat on a board of directors thanks to your abilities, knowledge, or popularity, serving well as a board member means leaving your ego behind.” – Susan Mogensen, Brown Dog Consulting

It’s not a surprise that, as a general rule, board directors have healthy egos. After all, they’re most often selected from among the ranks of successful business people, entrepreneurs, professionals, and academics. Each one brings their own expertise, roles, responsibilities, goals, and agendas. They take pride in their own independence and objectivity.

Yet each one must ultimately work as part of a wider team to make decisions in the best interests of the organization.

So how does the typical board director reconcile their individual need for ego satisfaction with their role as a relatively anonymous member of a group? Do they have to park their ego at the door, or is there a legitimate place for ego? The...

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Helping Others Find Their Voice

Does it sometimes feel as though you hear from the same few directors at every board meeting? What about all the others? Why do they stay silent? And more importantly, what can be done about it?

These days, many boards are consciously pursuing more diversity around the board table. The benefits include exposure to a variety of viewpoints, a range of experiences to draw on, and greater insight into stakeholders’ concerns and perspectives. But board diversity won’t deliver on its promise unless there is open discussion, where every board member’s voice is heard.

And diversity is only one of the many reasons that it’s important for all directors speak up. The knowledge, experience, and skill set that they bring to the table needs to be brought out so the board can benefit from their input.

Our last Savvy Director blog, ‘Your Voice Matters in the Boardroom,’ was addressed to those who are struggling to have their voice heard. This time let’s...

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Your Voice Matters in the Boardroom

Sometimes I hear from board directors who are struggling to find their voice in the boardroom. They don’t feel comfortable speaking up, or they can’t seem to make themselves heard.

It can be a particular challenge for newcomers to the board, or for those who feel outnumbered by virtue of their gender, age, race, etc.

If you don’t feel comfortable speaking up in the boardroom, you’ll end up feeling less engaged – maybe frustrated and resentful. Not only is that hard on you, but that kind of situation results in a high level of turnover at the board.

Even more importantly, when you don’t speak up, your board doesn’t get the benefit of hearing from you. What’s the point of recruiting qualified board members, if the board is never able to draw on the expertise of all those highly capable people?

If this describes you, what can you do to find your voice?

And if you’re not in that situation yourself, stay tuned for our next Savvy...

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Seeing Ourselves Clearly

Most of us like to think we’re self-aware – that we see ourselves clearly. Apparently, most of us are wrong. Research shows that only 10 to 15 percent of us fit the criteria for self-awareness.

Why does it matter? For board directors, self-awareness is an important attribute because when we see ourselves clearly, we can be more effective in the role.

For the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD), self-awareness ranks along with effective judgment and integrity as one of the ‘personal style’ competencies in their list of Key Competencies for Director Effectiveness.

And for readers trying to practice The Six Key Habits of the Savvy Director, self-awareness is an important skill for influencing others.


About Self-Awareness

Tasha Eurich is an organizational psychologist, researcher, and author who has written extensively about self-awareness. She provides a simple definition in her TED talk, ‘Increase your self-awareness with one simple...

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A Critical Thinking Mindset

Critical thinking is a key skill for board directors. But does that mean a director is expected to be constantly negative, cynical, and hyper-critical?

Not at all.

Critical thinking isn’t about criticizing. It’s about how you approach problems, issues, and arguments. It’s about asking questions like ‘Why?’ or ‘How?’ or ‘What happens if?’ It’s about objectivity, having an open mind, and relying on evidence to understand what’s really going on.

And when your understanding is deeper, your contribution to the board’s decision-making can be that much more valuable.

That’s why, as a savvy director, it’s important to bring a critical thinking mindset to your board work. 

“Critical thinking is skeptical without being cynical. It is open-minded without being wishy-washy. It is analytical without being nitpicky.” – Peter Facione, Researcher and consultant


Critical Thinking in...

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Boardroom Influence - Part 2

What should you do when trust has been damaged between you and other board members? Is there a way to recover? Are there differences in how men and women cultivate influence? What adjustments are needed if the board meeting is virtual? And what ethical considerations crop up when it comes to influence between meetings?

We left some of these questions unanswered in last week’s edition of The Savvy Director, ‘Cultivating Your Influence in the Boardroom.’ No worries - we’ll get caught up now with more wisdom gleaned from my interview with business presentation master expert, Lauren Sergy, owner of Up Front Communication.

As we discussed last week, having influence in the boardroom gives you the ability to change hearts, minds, and behavior. We learned that using influence effectively is about leveraging trust – whether you built that trust over your time on the board, or you protected the trust that your reputation had already earned for you even before...

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Cultivating Your Influence in the Boardroom

Having influence in the boardroom gives you the ability to change hearts, minds, and behavior. It’s about using your words to share an idea or to move other people toward a position that you support. Make no mistake, being able to influence people is a difficult challenge that all leaders face.

And, as a member of a board of directors, you are one of those leaders.

In this context, we’re talking about the ability to influence your peers around the board table. If you’re new to the board, you’re just getting to know some of these people. Ideally, you’d like to make a good first impression so you can present your views with confidence and avoid having your comments fall on deaf ears.

Does that sound familiar?

I’ve been there. I’ll always need to work on my influence skills - one board meeting at a time. That’s because I don’t come from a position of power or corporate heft, and my chequebook doesn’t carry a lot of weight in...

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The Minute Book

One of the first things to happen at every board meeting is the approval of the minutes of the previous meeting. Until that happens, the minutes are still considered a draft.

It’s an important step, even though it might just take a few seconds. That’s because minutes are the official record of what happened at the previous board meeting – who was there, what decisions were made, and what actions were planned.

What exactly should you be looking for in the minutes before you vote to approve them?

This topic seems straightforward, but at DirectorPrep we still get questions about it. So, let’s dig in a bit.


Why Keep Minutes?

Knowing what purposes are served by the minutes should help guide you in your review.

The official record. The simplest answer to the question, “Why keep minutes?” is that every corporation is required to keep a record of their directors’ meetings. They are the official record of who attended, votes taken,...

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The Annual Board Calendar

Over the course of a year, a board of directors must review key information, approve important documents, hold vital discussions, and make critical decisions. How do they stay on track?

The annual board calendar is a valuable tool to ensure that all these events happen at the right time. It’s more than just a list of dates and times. It’s a document that needs to be well thought out and carefully considered.

Think of the board calendar as a planning tool to help the board govern effectively. It helps the board figure out how to best spend its time and make sure nothing critical gets missed.

No one wants the board to get to the end of a year and then realize that essential tasks haven’t been taken care of. An easy way to keep tabs on board tasks is to start with the annual calendar, then refer to it to develop each board meeting agenda.

And the annual calendar is helpful for individual directors too. They’re busy people, involved in lots of events and...

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Governance in the News - Yet Again

Our too-short summer is drawing to a close, and, with that, DirectorPrep’s hiatus from weekly blog production has ended. Fortunately, the news cycle has brought us the gift of content.

Hockey Canada is the governing body of Canada’s most beloved sport - a non-profit organization with a board of volunteer directors. But don’t kid yourself – this is big business. And now it’s in hot water and its board is under public scrutiny. That makes it fodder for our third installment of “Governance in the News.” (Click here and here for the first two issues.)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When your board of directors is in the news, it’s never a good thing. When you see the word governance in a headline, you can be sure it’s not going to be a heartwarming story.

For a Savvy Director, there’s a lot to learn if you approach a story like this with a director’s mindset, asking yourself,...

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