“How is it you would rather find the time to rewrite an ‘F’ grade paper for a better mark than to invest the right amount of time in the first place?” This comment was made by one of my university profs. A truer observation would be hard to find.
There is real power in preparing. Preparation is like prevention -- it reduces the potential for failure and the costs that go with it.
Where am I going with this? I’m glad you asked.
Preparation is the savvy director’s key to success in the boardroom.
I’m going to bounce lateral on you for a minute. Let me tell you about my recollection of Dr. Howard Bentall and his son Barney.
When I was growing up in Calgary, Alberta in the 1970s, my parents would take me and my siblings to church most Sundays. Dr. Bentall was our minister. As a young boy, I remember him visiting us at our house. He would often bring his young son Barney with him. Barney was about my age, and we would play together in the backyard while the adults enjoyed their conversation.
What I remember most about Dr. Bentall was his powerful sermons on Sunday mornings. To this day, some fifty years later, I remember the silence in the church as the congregation hung on his every word. The guy really had a gift. What I didn’t know then was how much work went into it.
Years later, circa 1994, I was working in radio broadcasting in Edmonton. Canadian rock star Barney Bentall walked past my door on the way to the control room for an interview. As I knew he would be dropping by to promote his new CD, I had been keeping an eye open and I waved when he approached.
I asked, “By any chance are you related to Dr. Howard Bentall?” Barney answered, “Yeah, he’s my Dad.” A quick conversation ensued before he was hustled away for his interview.
As we talked, I reminded him about playing in our Calgary backyard and we shared a laugh or two. I told Barney of the great impact his father’s sermons had on me as a young kid. And how I appreciated the gift of powerful communication that his dad possessed.
Then Barney shared with me, “You have no idea how much he prepared for those sermons. Only his family knows. He had the Sunday sermon written by Tuesday and then he rehearsed in front of the mirror every day of the week leading up to the following Sunday.”
So, I realized, yes, Dr. Bentall did have a gift. He had the gift of knowing it takes a lot of hard work to make it look easy. That was my takeaway that day and now I see it applies in so many places.
Here’s my premise for this article: Your satisfaction as a board director, whether on a not-for-profit or for-profit board, is directly correlated to the quality of your preparation before you arrive at your board meeting.
Knowing you have done the work ahead of time to review the material, organize your thoughts, consider your questions and be ready to kickstart the discussion goes a long way to being more than prepared for the meeting. It’s about knowing you are ready for the meeting. Ready to participate fully.
Just as Dr. Bentall was ready to deliver a killer sermon in church every Sunday morning. He prepared, he rehearsed, he practiced and he knew his material. So can you.
There will be times in your board career when your viewpoint is required on an issue. You want to deliver in a cogent and compelling manner so you can influence the decision-making process and have a say in the final decision.
Directors who are recognized by their peers as savvy directors have figured out there are no short cuts to getting ready to collaborate, contribute and influence decisions at their board meetings.
The framework below sets out what I consider to be the essential behaviors of a Savvy Director. As you can see, Prepare for Meetings is right up there. There’s no being Savvy without preparation!
If you’re a reader of The Savvy Director™ blog, you likely have an internal desire to run the miles, do the work, and be ready to grow your director skills and behaviors to a world class level, no matter how large or small the board or organization that you serve.
Board work can be rewarding on many levels. It’s not glamorous and often it’s not even well-understood. But for those of us called to serve for the benefit of a greater community, our preparation ahead of time helps us be ready to make a difference.
You can be really good at this. With preparation, you will always be ready to be a better director than you were for the previous meeting. Just rinse and repeat.
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: What are your tips for an aspiring director to prepare for a board meeting?