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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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From Evaluation to Action

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

“The truth is that every director wants to serve on a great board. Every Board Chair wants to lead a great board. Every Chief Executive Officer and senior team wants to work with a great board. What’s often missing is a vehicle to shift a board from good to great and maintain a great board’s vibrancy.” – Beverly A. Behan

If you’ve read our first article in this series, “From Compliance to Improvement,” you’ve probably realized that the board invests a great deal of its time, effort, and resources into the evaluation process. How do we, as directors, ensure that...

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From Compliance to Improvement

This is the first of a series of four Savvy Director articles dealing with various aspects of board and director evaluation. Our next article, “From Evaluation to Action,” will explore key success factors, followed by articles on the topics of individual director evaluations and meeting evaluations.

“How do you take a board that’s good – and make it truly great? How do you take a board that’s great and retain its vibrancy over the years? The answer, believe it or not, is with a board evaluation.” – Beverly A. Behan, author of Board and Director Evaluations: Innovations for 21st Century Governance Committees

Once upon a time, the annual board evaluation was merely a “check-the-box” compliance exercise – a task the board was expected to perform to assess its past performance. Depending on the sector, some boards were expected – or even required – to disclose their evaluation process to stakeholders.

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Boardroom Imposters

by Alice Sayant, ICD.D

It seems that lately, everywhere I go, someone is talking about imposter syndrome.

First it was a recent Savvy Saturday online discussion about Cultivating Your Influence in the Boardroom.

Then a conversation with board directors at the inaugural Women Get on Board Summit.

And then, just the other day, a chat with a friend during a brisk walk in the park to mark spring’s arrival (finally!) on the Canadian prairies.

You see where this is going, of course. At DirectorPrep, our natural response to such a series of events is to write a Savvy Director article about imposter syndrome in the boardroom.


What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the thought or fear that you are not capable, worthy, or good enough to be included in a particular group — such as a board of directors — or to fulfill a certain role — such as that of a board director.

People experiencing imposter syndrome believe they’re undeserving of their...

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Bringing Design into the Boardroom

One of my favorite things about my role at DirectorPrep is that, when I come across a new idea or an interesting concept in the world of board governance, I get to share it with our Savvy Director readers.

That’s how today’s blog came about. While researching an entirely different topic, I came across a series of articles from the Institute of Directors of New Zealand (IoD NZ) about applying the principles and practices of design thinking in the boardroom.

I found the concepts to be quite compelling. I hope you do too.


What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is an ideology and a process for solving complex problems in a user-centric way. It focuses on achieving practical results that are technically feasible, economically viable, and meet a real human need.

From its origins as a way of teaching engineers how to approach problems creatively, design thinking evolved into a way of thinking in the fields of science, design, engineering and eventually business. It...

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The Way We Do Things Around Here

This is the third of three articles on the topic of human capital. The first, Overseeing “Our Greatest Asset”, dealt with the board’s role in Human Capital Management and the second, The Talent-Savvy Board, dealt with Talent Management. In this article we explore the importance of organizational culture.

An organization’s culture can make or break a brilliant strategy and build or damage the careers of experienced executives. A positive culture that aligns well with strategy can produce innovation, growth, leadership, ethical behavior, and customer satisfaction. But a negative or misaligned culture can impede strategic outcomes, erode performance, diminish customer loyalty, and discourage employee engagement.

Yet, despite its importance, corporate culture has only rarely appeared on board agendas. Few boards have spent time overseeing culture with anything like the rigor they’ve applied to compliance, strategy, risk, or CEO succession.


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The Talent-Savvy Board

This is the second of three articles on the topic of human capital. The first, Overseeing “Our Greatest Asset”, dealt with the board’s role in Human Capital Management. Next week’s article will deal with Organizational Culture.
Providing oversight of an organization’s top talent has long been a core responsibility for boards of directors. They play a critical role in hiring and firing the CEO, evaluating the performance of top executives, and developing leadership succession plans.
Traditionally, directors have focused their efforts on the organization’s most senior leaders – typically the C-suite and senior executives – leaving oversight of the broader workforce to management. Oversight of senior leaders was seen as strategic, while the rest of the workforce was viewed as operational – the purview of management.
But nowadays, boards are coming to understand that even the most brilliant strategy is only as...
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Overseeing “Our Greatest Asset”

This is the first of three articles dealing with Human Capital Management. The next two will deal with Talent Management and Organizational Culture.
Historically, organizations have viewed their workforce through a financial lens. The well-worn phrase “our people are our greatest asset” marked a transition from viewing people as just another operating expense to considering them as intangible assets that represent a fundamental component of the organization’s economic value.
But more recently, many organizations have taken another step forward to begin looking at their workforce as a living entity. This trend started before the global pandemic, and it’s only continued to intensify throughout this period of social and economic upheaval that we’re all living through.
It’s more obvious every day – if there was ever any doubt – that an organization’s long-term success is dependent on attracting, retaining, and...
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Shifting into High Gear

This article is the second of two dealing with board engagement. Click here for our first article – Getting in Gear.
In the first Savvy Director article on board engagement, Getting in Gear, we explored the meaning of board engagement, some of the signs of engaged or disengaged boards, and how to measure board engagement. The title “getting in gear” implied moving from a neutral position  – with gears disengaged – to low gear to start dealing with board matters in an effective way.
In this second article, we’re talking about shifting into a higher gear to attain more speed and power. High gear enables us to do our board work more energetically, vigorously, and effectively.
A high level of board engagement doesn’t just happen. Like anything worthwhile, it takes intention and effort. Let’s explore some ways that a board of directors can get into high gear by upping its board engagement.


Set the Tone from...

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Getting in Gear

This article is the first of two dealing with board engagement. Part 2, “Shifting into High Gear,” was published on April 24th.

I like the metaphor of “getting in gear” to refer to the topic of board engagement. It’s a familiar phrase that means “starting to deal with something in an effective way.” When a board of directors gets in gear, it starts to deal with the issues and concerns in front of it in an effective way. In other words, it makes an impact. 

To stretch the metaphor just a bit further, let’s think of individual directors as the gears. When directors are appropriately engaged, they work together to change the speed and direction of the board – just as gears can change the speed and direction of a machine. 

Every board wants engaged directors, and every director wants to serve on a board with a high level of engagement.
It stands to reason. Engaged directors are motivated to invest their time...
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Navigating Our VUCA World

This article is the second of two dealing with our VUCA world and how the board of directors can help their organizations to navigate its challenges. Click here for our first article - Living in a VUCA World.
Like it or not, we find ourselves living in a VUCA world - one characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Our environment is changing rapidly and in unexpected ways. It can be hard to discern the best path forward in the face of this shifting reality.
In our previous Savvy Director article, Living in a VUCA World, we explored the meaning of VUCA and how it impacts us, found that the ability to be agile in the face of disruption helps organizations to survive and thrive, and discussed how people, culture, and leadership are key to organizational agility.
Now let's turn our attention to how boards and individual directors can help their organizations navigate the VUCA world.


VUCA and the Board

If the board views its role...
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