The Savvy Director - weekly insights delivered to your inbox on Sunday mornings. Click here

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.

The Board's Campfire

Building a great board of directors is like building the perfect campfire. You have to picture how high the flames might leap or how far the sparks could fly.
I’ve had this metaphor in the back of my mind for some time. I’ve always been fascinated by fires – campfires as a Cub Scout camping in the Rockies, and now wood-burning fires in the old brick fireplace of our vintage home.
I snapped the photo above during one of my favorite moments - early on a cold weekend morning in the dead of winter, with the hounds at my feet and a piping hot mug of coffee in my hand. The hot coals are visible – hot enough to keep burning when new logs are added - even if they are a little ‘green’.
Trying to get a good fire going with firewood that’s unseasoned, frozen, or even worse, wet, is a challenge. No amount of newspaper, tree bark, or other incendiary aids will keep the fire going beyond the initial spark from a long fireplace...
Continue Reading...

Risk Governance Revisited

Recently we re-published an earlier blog post, “What do I need to know about risk?” and shared The Savvy Director Guide to Risk with our subscribers as well as our network on LinkedIn.

Of course, there’s no way that a single blog post can cover the full breadth of a complex topic like risk. After all, there are entire books and courses of study devoted to the subject. Comments from some of our Savvy Director readers gave us great ideas for a follow-up blog on the topic.

Many thanks to those who shared their thoughts about additional concepts that Savvy Director readers could benefit from.


Risk Culture

Grant Griffiths, board advisor, commented,

“One thing I would add is culture, it is so important when it comes to the management and oversight of risk. Without a risk aware culture - driven from the board who set the tone - achieving effective management and oversight of risk becomes complicated and has less chance of succeeding.”

Implementing a...

Continue Reading...

Where should I sit?

If your board is now contemplating the transition from virtual meetings back to in-person ones, you may once again be confronted with the dreaded decision, “Where should I sit?”

Okay, I get that this is not the most urgent and compelling matter in front of a board director, but it may actually cause you a small amount of anxiety when you're confronted with all those empty chairs. I know that, personally, I've been grateful for tent cards in such a situation.

Is there a right place and a wrong place to sit?

Well, as it turns out, this topic is the subject of scientific research! Who knew?


Picking the Right Seat

I found out everything I need to know about this topic from a website called Science of People. The information presented in this blog is drawn from an article entitled How to Pick the Right Seat in a Meeting EVERY Time by Vanessa Van Edwards.

It seems that where you sit in a meeting greatly affects people’s perceptions of you, your feelings toward...

Continue Reading...

Getting a Handle on Inflation Risk

I’m willing to bet that the majority of Savvy Director readers are not economists or financial experts. And neither am I.
But a recent comment from DirectorPrep co-founder Dave Jaworski – following one of his board meetings – got us thinking about what the board needs to know about inflation, and what kind of questions might a director want to ask.
So, this week’s blog post will delve into how savvy board directors are thinking about inflation. But first, the big picture.


Inflation - Transitory or Persistent?

As board directors, we should have a basic understanding of how the economy works, and especially how economic realities impact the organizations we serve, whether for-profit or non-profit. Every organization – regardless of where it operates or what sector it’s in – is subject to fluctuations in the economy. And since our board deliberations are usually future-oriented, we need to consider not just the current...
Continue Reading...

Governance in the News - Again

Several months ago, I posted a Savvy Director blog about two governance stories in the news (Governance in the News.)
 I said then – and I haven’t changed my mind – whenever you see the words ‘governance’ or ‘board of directors’ in a headline, it’s not going to make for a heartwarming read.
“Governance stories in the news tend to focus on conflict, crisis, and failure – shedding light on goings-on and machinations that were not meant to be in the public eye. However disturbing, these stories make fascinating case studies.” – The Savvy Director, ‘Governance in the News
This week we’ll take a look at a current story that has Canadian business reporters and governance experts mesmerized - the saga of Rogers Communications Inc.

First Some Background

If you live in Canada, you likely know the story. But The Savvy Director blog is fortunate to have readers...
Continue Reading...

So You Want To Be The Board Chair

Our last couple of blog posts have dealt with board succession planning (A Better Way to Fill Board Seats) and director recruitment (The Right Director for Your Board.)
But a good board succession plan isn’t just about filling board vacancies. It’s also about finding board leaders, like the next board chair.
So, in today’s Savvy Director post, we’re going to zero in on the position of board chair. We’re going to try to answer the questions What’s the role?, What skills does it require?, and How might a director prepare themselves for the role?

What Does the Job Entail?

Well, for one thing, it’s not easy. And it’s not getting any easier. Today’s board chairs need to be open and responsive to a rapidly changing environment and increasing stakeholder expectations - not just personally open, but also making sure that their board is responsive to realities like ESG, diversity, equity and inclusion, and next...
Continue Reading...

The Right Director for Your Board

Last week’s blog dealt with board succession. If you read that post (A Better Way to Fill Board Seats), then you know I’m an advocate of treating board succession as an ongoing process of planned renewal.

Maybe you also noticed that we glossed over the whole topic of actually selecting the right director for your board – a process that is complicated enough to merit its own separate blog post.

So, let’s delve into the topic of board recruitment now.


Pinpointing What Your Board Needs Right Now

A competency matrix is a useful tool for board succession. It helps you visualize the skills and attributes that the board needs compared to those that it currently has. It makes the gaps obvious.

But, when it comes time to make a final selection, make sure to pinpoint specifically what the board needs at this point in time, asking key questions like:

  • What are the most important things for our board to accomplish?
  • Do we have the right people on the board to make...
Continue Reading...

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 member at the table. You’d better hope they’re a good fit because one director can change the board’s dynamics and culture – sometimes in a negative way that would have been revealed with more time and a better process.

There’s got to be a better way …

Board Succession

Board succession - filling board vacancies when directors step down - can be a complex, time-consuming task. There are a number of factors for the board to keep track of: the gap created by the...

Continue Reading...

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 the board.

The relationship between the CEO and the board is crucial, and has a huge influence on organizational success. The CEO and the board play different roles, but they have to pull together on achieving the organization’s goals. If they’re pulling in opposite directions, the organization is at an impasse.

Mutual trust is at the core of a strong board-CEO relationship. Of course, a harmonious relationship doesn’t guarantee success, but it can pave the way, clear out...

Continue Reading...

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

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 conscious of listening first or not putting myself into the other person’s shoes.

W.A.I.T. “Why am I talking?” is a helpful acronym to tuck away into your savvy director toolbox.  Try using it sometime before blurting out your question or interrupting someone who is talking.

Ask yourself, “Do I really need to speak to this agenda item? Or is it just my ego wanting to hear myself talk?”  Again, I’m speaking my personal truth as a director.  The...

Continue Reading...

Welcome to the Savvy Director Blog

Stay connected with our weekly posts about what it takes to be a savvy board director