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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. 

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Cultivating Your Influence in the Boardroom

Having influence in the boardroom gives you the ability to change hearts, minds, and behavior. It’s about using your words to share an idea or to move other people toward a position that you support. Make no mistake, being able to influence people is a difficult challenge that all leaders face.

And, as a member of a board of directors, you are one of those leaders.

In this context, we’re talking about the ability to influence your peers around the board table. If you’re new to the board, you’re just getting to know some of these people. Ideally, you’d like to make a good first impression so you can present your views with confidence and avoid having your comments fall on deaf ears.

Does that sound familiar?

I’ve been there. I’ll always need to work on my influence skills - one board meeting at a time. That’s because I don’t come from a position of power or corporate heft, and my chequebook doesn’t carry a lot of weight in...

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The Minute Book

One of the first things to happen at every board meeting is the approval of the minutes of the previous meeting. Until that happens, the minutes are still considered a draft.

It’s an important step, even though it might just take a few seconds. That’s because minutes are the official record of what happened at the previous board meeting – who was there, what decisions were made, and what actions were planned.

What exactly should you be looking for in the minutes before you vote to approve them?

This topic seems straightforward, but at DirectorPrep we still get questions about it. So, let’s dig in a bit.


Why Keep Minutes?

Knowing what purposes are served by the minutes should help guide you in your review.

The official record. The simplest answer to the question, “Why keep minutes?” is that every corporation is required to keep a record of their directors’ meetings. They are the official record of who attended, votes taken,...

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The Annual Board Calendar

Over the course of a year, a board of directors must review key information, approve important documents, hold vital discussions, and make critical decisions. How do they stay on track?

The annual board calendar is a valuable tool to ensure that all these events happen at the right time. It’s more than just a list of dates and times. It’s a document that needs to be well thought out and carefully considered.

Think of the board calendar as a planning tool to help the board govern effectively. It helps the board figure out how to best spend its time and make sure nothing critical gets missed.

No one wants the board to get to the end of a year and then realize that essential tasks haven’t been taken care of. An easy way to keep tabs on board tasks is to start with the annual calendar, then refer to it to develop each board meeting agenda.

And the annual calendar is helpful for individual directors too. They’re busy people, involved in lots of events and...

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Governance in the News - Yet Again

Our too-short summer is drawing to a close, and, with that, DirectorPrep’s hiatus from weekly blog production has ended. Fortunately, the news cycle has brought us the gift of content.

Hockey Canada is the governing body of Canada’s most beloved sport - a non-profit organization with a board of volunteer directors. But don’t kid yourself – this is big business. And now it’s in hot water and its board is under public scrutiny. That makes it fodder for our third installment of “Governance in the News.” (Click here and here for the first two issues.)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When your board of directors is in the news, it’s never a good thing. When you see the word governance in a headline, you can be sure it’s not going to be a heartwarming story.

For a Savvy Director, there’s a lot to learn if you approach a story like this with a director’s mindset, asking yourself,...

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How Many Boards Is Too Many?


Once you’ve established yourself as a director on one board, you may very well find that you’re being approached to serve on one or more additional boards.

Is saying “yes” a good idea? What should you think about before deciding? And what is the ideal number of boards to serve on?

As so often with the topics we explore in The Savvy Director, the answer is, “It depends.” In this case, it depends on some very personal considerations, such as the stage of your career, your family situation, and how board work fits into your life.


Two Issues to Consider

In general, there are two main factors to take into consideration - time commitments and conflict of interest.

Time Commitments. Research tells us that, these days, directors spend from 200 to 300 hours per year on each board they serve. That figure includes regular board and committee meetings and preparation time. Add to that the occasional need for special board or committee meetings...

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How Do We Make Money?


You may find the term “business model” thrown around in the boardroom.

In this Savvy Director article, we’ll explore what it means, how it differs from strategy, and what the board’s role is, and what directors need to know to fulfill their role with respect to the organization’s business model.

And if the board you serve is in the non-profit sector, not to worry. There’s plenty here for you as well.


What is a business model?

The term business model is one of those things people recognize when they see it but can’t quite define.

In brief, a business model answers the fundamental question, “What business are we in and how do we make money?” It’s a framework for describing the way an organization operates - the way it provides value to customers, and how and by whom that value is paid for in a way that covers costs and makes a sustainable profit.

For a non-profit, it could be a framework for how the...

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Asking Follow-Up Questions

A week or so before a board meeting, savvy directors start their PREP work to make sure they’ll be ready to take an active part in the meeting and add real value to the board’s discussions. Part of their PREP work is compiling a list of potential questions to ask – the kind of great questions that get to the heart of issues and help the board move forward.

The management team is probably thinking about questions too. What questions might they have for board members that will help draw out the insight and foresight that the board is there to provide? And what questions might they anticipate receiving in response to their reports, presentations, or proposals?

Here at DirectorPrep we’re heartily in favor of arriving at the meeting with a list of prepared questions in your pocket. In fact, doing so is one of The Six Key Habits of The Savvy Director. But it’s important to recognize that, if you rely solely on your prepared list, you won’t be as...

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Strategic Thinking Skills

Every board of directors is looking for strategic thinkers. And if you’re working on your Board Value Proposition, you’ll probably want to highlight your own skills in that area.

So, what exactly are we talking about when we refer to strategic thinking skills?

I searched in vain for a standard definition of the term “strategic thinking,” but I found there really isn’t one. Still, there’s been a lot written about how important these skills are for decision-makers.

So, let’s explore the value that strategic thinkers bring to your board. And, for those who wouldn’t describe themselves as a strategic thinker just yet, let’s take a look at a few tips for how to develop your own skills.


Strategic Thinking and the Board

Why is strategic thinking so important to a board of directors? Because, when it’s done well, it ultimately leads to a clear set of goals, plans, and new ideas required for organizations to survive and...

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Evaluating Board Meetings

This is the last in a series of four Savvy Director articles dealing with various aspects of board and director evaluation. The first two articles in the series, “From Compliance to Improvement” and “From Evaluation to Action,” explored the board evaluation process, and the third, “Evaluating the Individual Director,” dealt with director self-assessments and peer evaluations.

When it comes to the board of directors, board meetings are where pretty much everything that matters gets done – ideas are expressed, discussions take place, and decisions get made.

It stands to reason that evaluating board meetings is an important factor in monitoring the board’s effectiveness. For the most part, there’s a high correlation between productive board meetings and board performance. A well-run board meeting may not be a guarantee of board effectiveness, but it’s a strong indication.

Getting a handle on how directors view their board...

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Evaluating the Individual Director

This is the third in a series of four Savvy Director articles dealing with various aspects of board and director evaluation. The first two articles in the series, “From Compliance to Improvement” and “From Evaluation to Action,” explored the board evaluation process. The fourth will deal with meeting evaluations.

We’ve spent the last two Savvy Director articles delving into the process of evaluating the board of directors – looking at areas such as governance, performance, oversight, dynamics, and engagement. The focus of these evaluations is the effectiveness of the board as a whole, with an eye to continuous improvement of how the board operates and governs the organization.

But, when you stop to think about it, a board of directors is a group of individuals working together. It stands to reason that the effectiveness of the board as a whole depends at least somewhat on the performance of each individual. So, should a really robust board...

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