W.A.I.T. "Why Am I Talking?"

Have you ever returned home or back to the office from a board meeting and asked yourself, “Why did I say that?”

Me too. In fact, it happened a couple of weeks ago and it wasn’t the first time. But the frequency has gone down considerably since I’ve discovered and put to good use the acronym W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?).

As we’ve noted in earlier blog posts, the art of asking questions includes waiting for the right time to contribute. And contribute you will with a timely, relevant question that has the potential to influence the discussion toward a successful outcome.

Those who are known to their peers as savvy directors seem to have their listening skills on high alert and their mouths figuratively fastened with Velcro. They break down barriers and encourage dialogue with good follow-up questions. I’ve seen this time and time again and admired how the technique works to influence the discussion.

The savvy director doesn’t feel the need...

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"Do I need a motion for that?"

Robert’s Rules of Order? I’m not a big fan of Robert’s Rules. Who is this guy Robert anyway? Who made him king?

Okay, you’re right, my tongue is planted firmly in cheek. Boards do need to have a way of conducting their meetings and making group decisions. Robert’s Rules provide that framework.

That said, an overly strict adherence to the parliamentary procedures outlined in Robert’s Rules of Order can really be a buzzkill at board meetings. I’ve seen great discussions get derailed by uncertainty about procedural details. (Hence the title of this blog post, “Do I need a motion for that?” – a question I’ve heard more often than I care to count.)

Details of the board’s decision-making processes – especially the rules of voting – should be outlined in the organization’s charter documents, its bylaws, policies and/or governance manual. Some organizations’ bylaws actually mandate the use of R...

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"Has anyone EVER had a good board orientation?"

I’m happy to welcome back Alice Sayant as today’s guest blogger. Alice is a certified corporate director (ICD.D) and co-founder of DirectorPrep.com.

Alice’s thoughts on board orientation

Lately, my guilty pleasure is binge-watching old episodes of Friends on Netflix. Something that happened in the first season prompted me to think about board orientation for new directors.

I know, I know. It’s quite a stretch to compare the characters in a 1990’s sitcom to board directors. And the Central Perk coffee shop is not exactly a board room. But bear with me. There’s a connection.

Early in the series, Phoebe Buffay (played by Lisa Kudrow) reveals that sometimes she feels like an outsider from the group, as the other five have a long history which she doesn’t share. Well, it occurred to me that, when I have been the newest director around the board table, I’ve felt like Phoebe. It has seemed to me - rightly or wrongly - that all the other...

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"It's not just what you ask, but how you ask it."

Ever heard that one before? 

Thankfully it happens much less these days.  But it took an experienced director to pull me aside after a board meeting one time to help see the light. 

Body language, tone of voice, choosing your words with care, and simply waiting for the right time to jump into the discussion have all made a huge difference in my ability to have influence over others in the boardroom.  But not every time.  I still manage to mess up when I’m not conscious of listening first or not putting myself into the other person’s shoes.


W.A.I.T. “Why am I talking?” is a helpful acronym to tuck away into your savvy director toolbox.  Try using it sometime before blurting out your question or interrupting someone who is talking.


Ask yourself, “Do I really need to speak to this agenda item? Or is it just my ego wanting to hear myself talk?”  Again, I’m speaking my personal truth as a director.  The...

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Ready for Your Board Meeting?


Remember that feeling just before walking into your first board meeting? That combination of excitement and trepidation? You were wondering what you had got yourself into. But you couldn’t wait to make your mark.

But maybe that feeling has changed. Let's say you’ve been sitting on the board for a while. But now, instead of feeling excited and energized, eager to add value and make a difference, maybe you have a sinking feeling before your board meeting. Maybe you are not looking forward to it at all.

I’ve been there. We probably all have at one time or another. But why?

In a recent survey, I asked our community of board directors, “What do you think holds you back the most from achieving more satisfaction as a board director?” The single most frequent response was “lack of time,” especially not enough time for adequate preparation.

I get it. I really do. Time is at a premium for all of us. Including me. Including more experienced...

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"Which board committee is right for me?"

From time to time in this space, I’ll be asking guest bloggers to share their thoughts about various board-related topics. Today’s blog is written by Alice Sayant. Alice is a certified corporate director (ICD.D) and co-founder of DirectorPrep.com.

Alice’s thoughts on board committees

Recently I was asked to join a board of directors. I was already serving on a couple of other boards, where I was quite busy with committee work, and so I agreed to join the new board but declined to sit on any committees.

Mistake! By not sitting on any committees, I had automatically excluded myself from some of the most interesting, important and engaging work that a board does. You see, boards have such a broad range of responsibilities that they delegate some of the heavy lifting to the committee level. And while that means more work for committee members, it also means that they get to interact with management, delve into details, and really learn about the organization in a way...

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"You may be right, but do you want to be invited back?"


The question posed above by my finance professor in business school may be one of the most impactful lessons of my university education. Not sure why, except maybe to suggest that his question really hit home.

The question was pretty much a side comment to the discussion that was underway at the time and I’m not sure it resonated with others in my MBA class. But it did resonate for me. I was not even into boards yet, so, it wasn’t about that. Nonetheless it’s a powerful question I’ve brought forward more than a few times over the years.

One time a few years ago I was having lunch with a fellow director and talking about a rather difficult task we were facing with a board. After much analysis and deliberation, I knew I had gotten to the root cause of what was ailing the Board/CEO relationship. My colleague asked, “Do you think they’ll invite you back?” There was that question again …

So, what was it about? Didn’t people want to...

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"The board package just arrived. And it looks BIG."


You’ve heard the old saying, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.” Busy people who get things done – not people who make themselves busy working on their procrastination habits. (Been there!)

Busy, productive people have a way to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of the matter. Don’t be surprised if you happen to notice those same skills in the savvy directors on your board. Not to worry … you are not be that far from being there too.

Today’s blog post is all about what to do when the board package arrives ahead of the upcoming meeting. Ideally, it would arrive at least a week in advance, giving you plenty of time to review it. But don’t count on it. Life happens. The board itself is ultimately accountable for the quality of the information it receives, but responsibility for putting the package together rests with management.

And management takes its direction from the board. If you, as a board director,...

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"I've been asked to sit on a board. Now what?"

“Is this something I want to do?” “Is it time for me to start thinking about serving on boards at this point in my career?” “Am I already over committed and on too many boards?” “Would I agree to serve on this board just to make some money? Oh, it’s a volunteer position – I’ve done my share of those.” Maybe you can relate to this dilemma. I know I can.

What would the savvy director do?

I’m pretty sure a savvy director would have a baseline list of questions at the ready to determine if this opportunity was a good fit for their director skills, capacity and overall interest - or a better fit for someone else. They would have seen this movie before. They would recall getting involved with a board without doing their homework first, and then finding themselves eagerly waiting for their first term to expire.

On the other hand, if you’re a savvy director in-waiting - an up-and-coming director who realizes you...

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Why The Savvy Director?

Some of you know this story … my first board meeting fifteen years ago was a disaster – a horrific experience really. I had been asked to represent the regional chapter of my professional association on the national board. Then, while I was flying to Toronto to attend my first meeting, my local group sent a letter to the chair of the national board demanding that the CEO be replaced, without me knowing about it.

How do you think that went over with my new board?

What kind of welcome mat do you think they rolled out for this new director? I got killed.

Not only was this my first meeting with the national board – it was my first board meeting ever! As you can imagine, there is more to the story and we can save that for another day. For now, let’s just say my chapter had vocalized the ‘elephant in the room’ by writing that letter – the organization had been hemorrhaging membership for many years – but the execution was deeply flawed,...

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