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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 weekly link right in your email inbox.

A Better Way to Fill Board Seats

Does this sound familiar?

A long-standing, knowledgeable and well-respected director will soon be stepping off your board. This will create a vacant board seat.

Once the board becomes aware of this impending departure, a board committee is tasked with finding a good candidate to fill the seat. The committee scrambles to interview a few candidates and recommend one of them to the board.

The board rubber stamps the committee recommendation and – bingo! – there’s a new board...

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Board vs. CEO

In last week’s Savvy Director post, I wrote about healthy tension among board members, and the need to prevent it from deteriorating into disruptive conflicts, or resolving the conflicts quickly if they do arise.

But there’s a certain kind of conflict that arises in the boardroom that I didn’t address – one that requires finesse and sensitivity to manage. I’m referring to conflict between the CEO (often called the Executive Director in the non-profit world) and...

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

ask great questions Sep 25, 2021

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...

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Preparing for a Board Interview

The board interview – it’s a key step in assessing the fit between a board of directors and a potential new board member. But for both parties – the board and the candidate - it’s so much more than that.

Last week The Savvy Director blog focused on the ‘fit’ – or lack thereof – between a board and potential new directors. We advised using behavioral questions to uncover candidates’ fit with the board. And we provided some questions for...

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"Oh no! I have a conflict of interest."

demonstrate courage Sep 11, 2021

Relax!  Having a conflict of interest with respect to something on the board’s agenda need not interfere with your ability to function as a high quality board director.  It’s okay to have them.  It doesn’t make you a bad person or ineffective board member.  The real issue is whether your board has a good process/policy/practice to manage and mitigate any actual or potential conflicts.

What is a Conflict of Interest? 

Let’s get the definition...

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Keeping the train on track

prepare for meetings Sep 04, 2021

Someone on LinkedIn said, “Good governance is like keeping the train on track.” I like that analogy as it runs parallel to the description of the CEO who ‘keeps the trains running on time.’

You need both good direction and good execution.

You also need the third phase of the board’s work – monitoring progress.

It may have been John and Miriam Carver who described the work of the board as:

  1. Setting direction,
  2. Delegating authority, and
  3. Monitoring progress.
  4. ...
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Banish Groupthink from the Boardroom

think independently Aug 29, 2021

You’ve read the material. You’ve seen the presentation. You’ve listened to management’s request. Now it’s time for the board to make a decision. It’s an important decision, too. You’re expecting a robust discussion.

But the room is quiet. Maybe a couple of directors ask a question or two, just for clarification. Now it looks like the board chair is about to call for a vote.

What’s going on? Groupthink, that’s what. Your board has fallen...

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"What do I need to know about risk?"

prepare for meetings Aug 22, 2021

How should a board of directors be spending its time and energy? When I serve on boards, I make sure there is plenty of room on our agendas to regularly spend time on four key topics: finance, people, strategy, and risk. I refer to these collectively as The Savvy Director’s Focus.

Board directors don’t need to be experts in these areas, but we should all have at least a basic understanding of them. And so, today’s blog focuses on what a board director needs to know about...

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Engaging with Your Stakeholders

prepare for meetings Aug 08, 2021

Stakeholders are persons or groups with an interest in an organization who can affect or be affected by its decisions and activities. Given what’s happening in our world, it should be no surprise that the idea that organizations should be accountable to a broad base of stakeholders has gained traction, pushing the topic of stakeholder engagement to the top of many board agendas.

After all, our organizations don’t exist in isolation. They are influenced by the same forces of...

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When It's Time To Go

In a time of rapid change, it’s vital for boards to ensure they have a vibrant team with the right mix of knowledge and skills to keep moving the organization forward.

But many boards find they don’t have the right processes in place to keep their membership fresh and relevant. And boards can find that their quest for renewal is blocked by a shortage of vacant seats, as sometimes directors stay on the board for a very long time.

When is long board tenure too long? What can boards...

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