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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Banish Groupthink from the Boardroom

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 victim to Groupthink.

We’ve all been there, at one time or another. I know I have. So, what can we do about it?

First, what is it?


What is Groupthink?

The term was coined in 1971 by psychologist Dr. Irving Janis, following extensive research on group decision-making. His findings came from research into why a team reaches an excellent decision one time, and a disastrous one the next.

Janis found that a lack of conflict or opposing viewpoints led to poor decisions, because...

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You've Got to Get the Big Things Right

After twenty years, it’s time to say goodbye to an old friend … my office chair.

We started the business together in the late ‘90s. We were successful. We collaborated through thick and thin literally. Always supportive, never a complaint. Until recently.

The business has changed. Yes, we’re still helping board directors prepare for board meetings, so they are ready to collaborate, contribute and influence decisions. That’s why our™ catchphrase is ‘Ready for Your Board Meeting?’ But now, we’re moving our business online, we’re writing blogs, and we’re recording training videos.

We’ve had good luck so far producing videos that managed to avoid capturing the office chair’s squeaks and groans in the audio feed. But change is hard. I did what I could to help the old chair make the transition I applied some WD40, I tightened the screws, I kept it clean.

Despite knowing a replacement would...

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Skate to Where the Puck is Going to Be

Like so many Canadians, I’m looking forward to having hockey back in my life. If all goes according to plan (fingers crossed!), the NHL will be treating fans to playoff games very shortly, as teams compete for the 2020 Stanley Cup. There’ll be empty arenas, they’ll be playing in only two cities, and the players will stay in their own ‘bubbles’ for the duration – so it will definitely be a strange kind of play-off season.

But still – it’s the Stanley Cup playoffs! (Cue the theme to Hockey Night in Canada.)

So what does hockey have to do with The Savvy Director™? Read on …

The Great One

Wayne Gretzky is known as the greatest hockey player of all time. He was not just a fabulous player, but a great ambassador for the game. He was interviewed countless times and his quotes about hockey, and about life, are all over the internet.

Business leaders have gravitated to one quote in particular. Everyone from Steve Jobs to Warren...

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CEO Selection - It's Time to Choose

Over the years I’ve been involved in more than a few searches for a new CEO, and, I have to say, it’s got to be one of the most nerve-wracking processes that a board of directors undertakes. There is just so much riding on that one decision. It’s a process that is fraught with risk – the risk of overlooking the right person and selecting the wrong person.

In recent blog posts, we’ve dealt with different takes on the board’s role in CEO succession – first, the challenge of naming an interim CEO to deal with an unexpected CEO departure, and then, managing an orderly process of long-term succession planning. With today’s post, we’re closing the loop with a deep dive into the selection of a new CEO.

In this scenario, the board knows about the current CEO’s departure well in advance – in the case of a planned retirement, for instance – and has the luxury of plenty of time to locate just the right person to be the...

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CEO Succession Planning - It's All About People

Last week’s blog about Interim CEOs seemed to strike a nerve. One reader even told us “You have no idea how timely this is. I am right in the middle of this exact discussion.”

Keeping with the topic of CEO succession, I asked Alice Sayant, co-founder of™, to share her views about the board’s approach to succession planning.

Alice’s Take on Succession Planning

So, Scott gets to write about the controversial topic of interim CEOs, and here I am writing about the unsexy, decidedly noncontroversial topic of succession planning. How is that fair?

Why is succession planning noncontroversial? Because everybody agrees it’s a good idea – more than a good idea, it’s a key board responsibility and vital to the organization’s success. According to one source, 86% of leaders believe succession planning is an urgent or important priority. In researching the topic, I found no sources whatsoever that claimed succession...

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Emergency Succession - The Interim CEO

Key person risk - by definition, it’s the risk carried by an organization that depends to a great extent on one individual for its success. From the board’s perspective, the organization’s primary dependence is on the CEO, the person through whom all good things happen! From the CEO’s perspective, the key person in the organization might be someone else - the lead revenue generator, the head of creative content, the inventor, the chief IT architect, or the morning show host.

What happens when, all of a sudden, the board’s key person departs? The CEO, the ship’s operational rudder, is gone. “What does our CEO succession policy say? We don’t have one? Oh, okay … I didn’t know that. So where do we go from here? We’d better call a meeting.”

I don’t mean to make light of a serious situation. Especially today during a pandemic, when the frequency of sudden departures of CEOs, for health or performance reasons,...

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Listening Skills for Influence in the Boardroom

Countless times, I’ve sat impatiently at the board table waiting for another director to stop talking so I could have my turn. Needless to say, I was not really listening to what they were saying. My mind was preoccupied with my own upcoming pearls of wisdom. I know I’m not alone in this.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Steven Covey

But if everyone is mentally practicing their own response, and no one is really listening, why are any of us speaking at all?

Real communication goes in both directions

I’m sure we would all agree that good communication skills are a requirement for savvy directors. So what does that imply?

When we talk about communication skills for the boardroom, we often mean speaking or presenting. We think of communication as a way of sharing our ideas, knowledge and opinions with others. We communicate to influence others, advise them, or challenge them.


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A Fork in the Road - The Director's Role in Strategy

It’s important for an organization to have clear goals. Goals are where the organization wants to end up, but it needs a strategy to get there. If the goal is the destination, then its strategy is the travel plan.

When faced with a fork in the road, a travel plan answers the question Which road should we take? And it answers many other questions too, such as Which routes will we avoid? What vehicle will we use? How fast will we travel? Who will navigate? Who will be along for the ride? And how much will we spend?

So, if the organization’s strategy is like its travel plan, what kinds of questions does it answer? Keep reading to find out.

The Savvy Director’s Focus

It seems that every board of directors suffers from a time crunch. There is rarely enough time to get through a meeting agenda without rushing through the last few items. As a consequence, boards need to make sure they spend their limited time focused in the right areas.

Which areas? Strategy, people,...

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Diversity and Inclusion in the Boardroom

It feels like now is the right time to write about board diversity and inclusion. As always in these Savvy Director™ blog posts, we’ll eventually guide the conversation to how an individual board director might approach this topic in the boardroom.

This week, I asked Alice Sayant, co-founder of™, to share her views on the topic.


Alice’s thoughts on board diversity and inclusion

First of all, let me say that I believe board diversity and inclusion are important subjects for our consideration because, if we believe in social justice, it’s just the right thing to do. If the word justice implies fairness, then social justice is the concept of fairness as it manifests in society – including equal opportunity for participation in societal and economic institutions like corporate boards.

The four essential goals of social justice – human rights, access, participation, and equity – are important personal values for me,...

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Self-Care for the Stressed-Out Director

I received some interesting comments in response to the last Savvy Director™ blog on the topic of resilient leadership. This one below really got me thinking about a director’s need for self-care in the face of stress and worry about the organizations they oversee.

“I hope leaders, even if resilient, do not view themselves as invincible. They and their boards have to ask themselves ... how can I stay whole? How can I help others do the same? If we do not tend our ‘own gardens’ we may find ourselves withered, dry, or simply dead. Worst of all - dead but still in the job.”

Self-care is any activity that we do to take care of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Good self-care is key to improved mood, reduced anxiety, and positive relationships. Although I’m no expert on the subject, I do appreciate and try to practice positive behaviors such as eating well, getting my beauty sleep, exercising and meditating.

But what does...

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