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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.

Elevating the Boardroom Discussion

We often hear from readers looking for ways to elevate their boardroom discussions to a more strategic level. That makes sense. Strategic discussions are more interesting, forward thinking, and robust than those that drill down into the minutiae of operations.

When the agenda and reading material don’t reflect the organization’s high level strategy - instead being filled with pages of execution detail and ‘busy work’ metrics - is it any wonder directors slow the meeting down with operational questions? They’re just responding to what’s put in front of them.

Directors work on what you give them. If you give them an agenda focused on committee reports, they’ll spend their time listening with minimal input. In fact, if you don’t give them anything to work on, they just might work on you.

Instead, the key to achieving a consistently elevated board discussion – one that engages directors at a strategic level - is a relentless...

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Finance & Audit Wants YOU!

Non-financial board directors are missing a huge opportunity by not serving on finance and audit committees. I know that sounds odd if you’re particularly averse to the numbers or believe that you don’t have an aptitude for them.
But take it from me - a non-financial director - participating on a finance and audit committee is a far more enjoyable experience than writing an accounting or corporate finance exam. There’s no last minute cramming or pulling an all-nighter. Instead, there’s a collaborative approach among team members to make the right decision on a financial matter that’s real - not a case study or a theoretical problem.
Today’s financial issues are more complex and forward-thinking than they used to be. The thoughtful, curious question that a non-financial director with good listening skills can bring to a finance committee meeting has the potential to move the discussion forward and ultimately produce a better...
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When to Stop Talking

This response from a Savvy Director reader to the question ‘What boardroom skills do you want to learn?’ caught my attention:
“Knowing when there is no added value to ongoing discussion.”
You might think that particular skill is one that needs to be exercised by the board chair. After all, it’s the chair’s responsibility to guide the discussion, make sure all voices have been heard, and recognize when the time is right to bring the discussion to a close.
Yet each individual director at the board table also needs to make a similar determination when it comes to their own participation in the discussion. Have I said enough? Have I made my point? Is it time to stop talking? Have I stopped adding value?
Knowing when to stop talking requires being present, listening carefully, and, above all, a healthy dose of self-awareness.


Adding Value

What does it mean to add value to a discussion? How does that happen?
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ESG for SMEs

ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) strategies are all the rage. But that’s just for big publicly-traded companies, isn’t it? 
Not so fast. 
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and non-profits are discovering that they’re in the same boat. Just like major corporations, they face a need to meet expectations about their ESG strategy. If ESG is not on your radar yet, it soon will be.
“There’s increased pressure from stakeholders to be more transparent and accountable on ESG performance no matter what the size of the company is.” - Roopa Davé, Partner, Sustainability Services, KPMG
ESG is becoming a priority for every organization, regardless of its size, scope, and the sector where it operates. How should you and your board get started?


ESG Explained

ESG focuses on a company’s efforts in three areas - Environmental, Social, and Governance.
  • Environmental matters focus on climate...
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Talent vs. Effort


Your success as a board director isn’t about how smart you are, it’s about your willingness to do the work. I’m calling it ‘Boardroom Grit’. Is there such a thing?

Think about the wealthy dude who gets a seat at the high profile charity board table because of the size of his family’s foundation and the potential for a sizeable gift someday … how gritty is that when he never opens the meeting materials and confirms that reality with his off-topic comments and rabbit-hole questions?

Today’s Savvy Director blog topic was inspired by the best-selling psychology book, ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth.

While Dr. Duckworth shares extensive research demonstrating that talent alone is not enough to ensure achievement, it was her many real-life examples in athletics, the arts, medicine, business, and academics, that I found so compelling.

Her premise?

Talent without intentional practice is a...

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Making Arguments with Impact

One skill that Savvy Directors are always interested in improving is their ability to make clear concise arguments. When their board is faced with a decision, they want to express their views on the issue and try to convince their fellow directors.
Having influence in the boardroom requires good communication skills, like active listening and knowing how to ask tough but fair questions. But sooner or later every director has to speak up – otherwise you might as well pack up and go home. And when you do choose to speak, you want to make sure your words have the impact you intended.
In the context of boardroom discussion, the word argument shouldn’t be seen as having a negative connotation. In fact, good, solid arguments are the basis of persuasive communication. You can think about them in the same way as a lawyer making legal arguments, or a debater presenting arguments for or against an issue. They’re intended to change people’s minds.
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The Fading Bright Line

Directors - both new and experienced – often struggle with differentiating their role from that of management. As a board member – whatever the nature of the organization you serve – you want to get a handle on your governance role.

“I would like to find out more about / receive a refresher on the division of governance and operations – what falls under governance, operations, or possibly joint responsibility.” – A Savvy Director reader

 “I found it hard not to dabble in operations - I know I tended to ‘takeover.’ That's a skill challenge worthy of sharpening up on, in my humble opinion.” – A Savvy Director reader

The traditional advice is that there’s a bright line between the role of the board and that of management. It’s an attractive idea, but the reality is not that simple.


What Bright Line?

There’s always a line down the center of the road, marking distinct lanes that keep...

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The Road Ahead

Late in the year we asked you - our readers - to share your issues, your concerns, and your challenges as you continue along your journey to be the most effective director you can be. We rely on your feedback to help us stay on track, so we can provide what board directors like you want and need for the road ahead, in 2022 and beyond.
And boy, did we get some valuable feedback! There’s no question about it – our readers are absolutely dedicated to this work. We’ve got enough to keep us going for the next 100 blog posts! Over the course of the coming year, look for content that responds to what you told us you need most.
Let’s start by sharing some of the great feedback we received. Take a look below – I’m pretty sure you’ll see that you’re not alone – that your personal challenges and concerns align strongly with what our readers told us they’re after.


What you enjoy most

Your responses to the...
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Sharpening the Saw

“Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you.” – Stephen R. Covey

It’s been 30 years since Dr. Stephen R. Covey published his bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but it’s still going strong. And one of the most enduring of Dr. Covey’s seven habits is to ‘Sharpen the Saw.’ It’s about taking the time for self-renewal - constantly improving to become our best selves.

For the Savvy Director, that means investing the time and energy to keep up-to-date on trends in board governance, and to stay connected to how the field is evolving to remain relevant in our rapidly changing world.

On that note, have you noticed that, as the year draws to a close, newspapers, magazines, and television have a habit of sharing their lists of 'Best Of … ' or 'Favorites' or 'Top' choices for books, movies, toys, gadgets … or whatever it is they are focused on?

This year at...

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The Savvy Director Celebrates 100

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...
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