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.
The boards that I serve on conduct regular board self evaluations. They often use confidential online surveys for this purpose, since they are a convenient tool for obtaining input from each director on the board. Analyzing the data obtained from this kind of survey can serve as a foundation for continuous improvement at the board table.
Without exception, every board – no matter how effective in other ways - has scored poorly on the following survey question: “I receive adequate feedback about my contribution to the board.” For whatever reason, it seems that boards are just not very good at giving feedback to individual directors. Maybe it’s because no one has been tasked with that function. Or maybe it’s just a reflection of the natural human tendency to avoid conflict.
It’s true that some boards use peer-to-peer evaluation (individual directors assessing each other), but in my experience that is not a common practice.
In any case, the lack of feedback can be particularly problematic for a new director who is learning the ropes, whether they are new to the field of board governance or just new to a specific board.
If you are a new director, how can you learn and improve in the absence of feedback about your performance as a board member?
One suggestion is to proactively seek out feedback about your performance. But doing so can feel awkward. Whom should you approach? What’s a good time? Where should you start? What should you ask? (Hint: Don’t use the title of this blog ─ How do you like me so far? ─ to start off your discussion!)
And the person you approach could find it just as awkward. You might end up just receiving unhelpful platitudes like Don’t worry. You’re doing fine. Just give it time. And so on.
You can make it easier on yourself and others by conducting a self-evaluation first. This process can really help you to focus critically on your own performance. While it’s impossible to be truly objective about ourselves, there’s something about using a tool that encourages a thoughtful assessment. I wish I had completed this process early on in my board tenure!
If you are wondering how you are doing so far, try downloading and completing this Individual Director Self Evaluation. It focuses on a number of important competencies that can make the difference between a so-so director and a Savvy Director.
Once you have completed the evaluation, take some time to analyze and reflect on the results. If you’re like most people, the process will reveal some gaps that you might want to close.
Maximize the usefulness of the process by asking for some time with your board chair or another director to discuss. Before meeting, share the results of your evaluation in a general way. And when you meet, make a point of discussing the gaps that you identified and that you would like to work on.
All of this preparation will help you to obtain useful feedback and will have the added side benefit of impressing your board chair with your initiative!
Even for experienced board directors, regular self-assessments are a great way to continue to improve their performance and increase their contribution.
I’d like to thank Alice for offering her insights about director self-evaluation. Here’s what I took away from today’s blog.
Here’s a link to the Individual Director Self-Evaluation for you to download and use. And feel free to circulate this email to others who might benefit from the tool.
Scott Baldwin is a certified corporate director (ICD.D) and co-founder of DirectorPrep.com – an online hub with hundreds of guideline questions and resources to help prepare for your next board meeting.
Share Your Insight: How have you made sure you received effective feedback about your performance on a board?