The Savvy Director Celebrates 100
Dec 05, 2021
Today at DirectorPrep, we are celebrating our 100th post of The Savvy Director blog!
We published our very first, Why The Savvy Director? in October of 2019. Who knew how much the world would change in those two years?
Here’s how we introduced our new blog:
“This is a place for us to engage on topics that can help us on our respective journeys toward becoming savvy board directors – directors who are always prepared for our board meetings, ready to collaborate, contribute and influence decisions.
“This won’t be a blog for everybody. But it will be a place for directors interested in upping their game at the board table, no matter the size of the board or the type of organization.”
I sincerely hope that you, our readers, feel that we’ve lived up to that promise.
If you’ll indulge me, I’d love to take you on a stroll through The Savvy Director archives. For those who’ve been with us from the start, consider it a refresher. Maybe you’ll find a post that provides exactly what you need right now – one that you missed first time around or that you’ve forgotten about.
And if you’re a new subscriber to The Savvy Director, this should give you a taste of all the value that’s there for you to explore along your governance journey.
The Savvy Director
Let’s start with the name – The Savvy Director. Why savvy? The word denotes someone with common sense and good judgment. Someone with savoir faire.
Let me put it this way – everyone seems to know what I mean by the term ‘savvy director’ without having to explain it. They recognize a Savvy Director when they come across one.
Savvy Directors know about more than just governance. They understand that being on a board of directors is all about people – how they think, behave, and interact in the boardroom. And Savvy Directors add great value to their boards. They're known as thoughtful, wise, and courageous – which is why they're sought after to serve on the best, most effective, most engaging boards.
If you’re like most of our readers, a Savvy Director is what you hope to be. But it's not something you go to school for. And it’s not automatically conferred by a set of credentials.
So how does one become a Savvy Director? To answer that question, we developed the Savvy Director framework.
The Savvy Director Framework
It starts with gaining knowledge, building skills, and acquiring experience. Along the way, directors find they need to develop the right habits, which we introduced in our post The Six Key Habits of The Savvy Director.
Our Savvy Director framework is inspired by global research about director behavior conducted by Russell Reynolds Associates, which found that, around the globe, directors are remarkably consistent in what they consider to be the attributes of an effective director. We tweaked the Russell Reynolds list of attributes – based on our own experiences and observations – and vetted it with experienced directors.
The Six Key Habits are shown as an improvement cycle. That’s because a savvy director never stops learning and keeps building on their strengths.
In many ways, The Savvy Director blog is built around these six habits. Let’s take a walk around the circle. We’ll explore each habit using a few of our most popular blog posts.
Habit One. Build Governance Skills
Access the resources you need to understand the board’s stewardship role and your responsibilities as a director.
The first step in being a Savvy Director is understanding the job. You’ve got to know what you’re there to do – and, just as importantly, what not to do. These are the fundamentals of board governance – the board’s role and responsibilities, as well as your legal duties as a director.
But understanding these doesn’t tell you a lot about how the board actually gets its work done – how it operates, who does what, and when they do it. Here’s where The Savvy Director blog can help you make a difference to your board, with a weekly deep dive into the nuts and bolts of board operations.
The state of board governance doesn’t stand still. It’s dynamic – it’s constantly changing to reflect the times we live in. The Savvy Director provides you with insights to what’s going on in the governance world – from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) – and beyond.
To help build Habit One, check out these posts:
Habit Two. Prepare for Meetings
Spend time before each meeting so you are ready to add real value to board and committee discussions.
Time is at a premium for all of us. But keep this in mind – your satisfaction as a board director, no matter what kind of board you’re serving on, is directly correlated to the quality of your preparation. With preparation, you’ll always be ready to be a better director than you were at the last meeting.
There’s real power in preparing. It’s like prevention – it reduces the potential for failure and the costs that go with it. Knowing you’ve done the prep work ahead of time goes a long way to being ready to participate fully in the upcoming meeting.
It’s simple – the more prepared the directors, the more productive and engaging the board meeting. Group effectiveness requires individual preparation – every time.
To help build Habit Two, check out these posts:
Habit Three. Ask Great Questions
Stay curious. Help the board move forward with well thought-out questions that get to the heart of issues.
By asking a clear, compelling question, an early career director’s contribution can be just as significant as the most senior director. That question might be the one that helps the board solve a thorny problem or arrive at a difficult decision.
Questions don't just keep the conversation going. They have multiple uses – they can clarify information, launch discussions, challenge assumptions, and provoke innovative thinking. All that without being obnoxious or confrontational.
With well-prepared questions, you fulfill your fiduciary duty and arrive at the meeting feeling confident, eager, and ready to contribute. Asking the right question, in the right way, at the right time, is a great way to help drive your organization forward.
To help build Habit Three, check out these posts:
Habit Four. Collaborate with Others
Treat the board and management with respect. Work towards reaching a common understanding.
Collaboration builds trust. As directors, we’re dependent on mutual trust to be able to do our job. When you’re new to the board, you’re often given the benefit of the doubt, at least for a while. But that’s not the same as being trusted.
Building trust takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. Without trust, you might not feel safe enough to ask difficult questions, or accept feedback, or listen with an open mind. If you ever hope to change people’s minds and influence decisions, then trust is an absolute requirement.
To help build Habit Four, check out these posts:
Habit Five. Think Independently
See with your own eyes. Avoid Groupthink and challenge the status quo in a respectful manner.
As directors, our job consists mainly of thinking about things, so doing the job well requires the ability to think clearly, critically, and independently. Unfortunately, we all have to cope with barriers that get in the way of clear thinking – barriers like subconscious assumptions, cognitive biases, and Groupthink.
The more you know about these barriers, the more you’ll be able to spot them - in yourself and in your fellow board members. The Savvy Director aims to help you build self-awareness and develop the coping mechanisms to deal with them.
To help build Habit Five, check out these posts:
Habit Six. Demonstrate Courage
Maintain your integrity. Don’t be afraid to do the right thing for the right reasons.
“Don’t let fear outweigh courage.” These words come directly from one of our readers – clearly someone well on their way to being a Savvy Director. It’s advice that resonates strongly with me – and I hope with you as well.
Because you might be a governance guru, you might be the best prepared director with a list of awesome questions, you might be an independent thinker who gets along with all your fellow board members – but if you don’t have the courage to stand up for what is right – to do the right thing for the right reasons – then you can’t close the Savvy Director circle.
The presence of tension and conflict around the board table; the predicament of having to choose between keeping the peace or naming the elephant in the room; the sinking feeling where your gut tells you something needs to be said but your cowardly heart tells you to keep quiet – those are the times when you need to call on your governance courage.
To help build Habit Six, check out these posts:
Beyond The Six Key Habits
Along any journey worth taking, there are scenic overlooks, byways, and detours. So it is with the director’s governance journey – there are plenty of topics outside the circle of the Six Key Habits. And The Savvy Director blog is happy to accompany you along those pathways.
Your Governance Journey
The whole point of developing the Six Key Habits, travelling the governance journey, and becoming a Savvy Director is to be able to serve on boards that you’re interested in – whether for-profit or non-profit, large or small, start-up or long-standing – wherever your skills and your passions take you.
With that in mind, check out these last few Savvy Director posts that just might help you get on the board of your dreams.
- Being a Savvy Director is not something you go to school for.
- Just as you recognize a Savvy Director when you see one, you can – and will – be the director who is recognized by others for their savvy abilities in the boardroom.
- Your governance journey never ends. There are always opportunities to become an even Savvier director.
Leave a comment below to get in on the conversation.
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.
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