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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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Getting the Most Out of Committees

The Savvy Director blog usually focuses on the director role as it relates to the board as a whole. But in the past few weeks, I’ve found myself spending far more time on my role as a committee member. And that’s not unusual.

With committee work on my mind, it seems like a good time to write about board committees.

I like to include quotations in these blog posts, so I did a quick Google search on ‘Quotes about Committees’. It pains me to say it, but apparently nobody has ever had anything good to say about committees. Here's a sample of what I found:

“If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.”

“A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling to do the unnecessary.”

“A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.”

And so on. You get the picture.

If committees are so universally deplored, why would you want to be on one?

First of all, committee work is an...

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Larry in the Boardroom

Image from Breakfast with Larry

Have you ever wondered what the late talk show host Larry King would have been like as a board director?

Let’s say the board was questioning the CEO, and that Larry had actually prepped for the board meeting. What kind of questions would he have asked?

Given that one of Larry’s favorite questions for authors was “Why the book?”, I imagine that his fellow directors might have heard him ask the CEO questions like:

  • “What happened that quarter?”
  • “How did we get those fantastic results?”
  • “Why the delay in reporting?”
  • “What does our customer think?”
  • “How do we know what we don’t know?”
  • “When can we expect an update?”
  • “Where do we go from here?”
  • “What’s next?”

Do you see a pattern?

Short, concise, powerful questions designed to get the respondent to think about their answer. Larry told people that he was the master of the...

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Holistic Board PREP

We say it all the time – ‘Preparation is the key to success in the boardroom.’ That’s why we call our company DirectorPrep. That’s why our tagline is ‘Ready for your board meeting?’

And that’s why we developed the PREP Framework that provides individual directors with a consistent, repeatable process to prepare for board meetings. We want to support directors to be ready for their board meeting every time. (Visit the PREP for Success page on our website to download the PREP Framework.)

Being ready brings with it a state of energy and anticipation. When we are really well-prepared for an upcoming meeting, we can feel confident and ready to collaborate, contribute and influence board decisions.

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” – Arthur Ashe, American tennis champion


Get in the Habit of Preparing

As directors, our commitment to prepare...

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The Power of Catalytic Questions

If you’ve been reading The Savvy Director blog for a while, then you know that, at DirectorPrep, we are obsessed with questions.

One reason for that is because asking questions helps us to fulfill our fiduciary duty as board directors. Through our questions, we inform ourselves about the subject matter at hand and satisfy ourselves about what is in the organization’s best interests.

Of equal importance, the right questions – asked in the right way at the right time – are a great tool to help drive our organizations forward.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.” – Albert Einstein

But let’s face it, not all questions are created equal. Today, I want to focus on a particularly powerful type of question – known as the catalytic question – and how savvy directors can use this technique in the boardroom.

First, what’s the...

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Trust and The Savvy Director

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear author Brian Hayward speak about his new book, The Great Chair: A Window on Effective Board Leadership. I was particularly struck by Brian’s comments on the topic of trust in the boardroom, and how it links to the ability to influence others.

Brian’s book is all about board chairs, and why they are more important than ever for effective governance, so his writing reflects the importance of trust in the board chair’s relationship to the CEO on the one hand, and to other board directors on the other hand. These are the two “dimensions of trust” that the board chair must deliberately cultivate to be effective.

“So, bottom line, chairs rely on personal influence. And there is only one source of personal influence. That is trust. Take trust away from any relationship and you knock the legs out from under ability to influence.” – Brian Hayward, The Great Chair

While only a few directors can occupy...

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Do You (And Your Board) Need a Boost?

A couple of days ago, DirectorPrep co-founder Alice Sayant shared with me that her car wouldn’t start. The battery had just enough juice for auxiliary power, but not enough to turn over the engine.

Now, in our part of the world (the Canadian Prairies), a dead car battery is a fairly common occurrence in the middle of a cold winter. But it hasn’t even been that cold (at least, not yet.) And not only is her car parked in the garage, but the block heater (click here if you’ve never heard of a block heater!) was plugged in, keeping the engine nice and warm.

But in the midst of a Code Red lockdown – with stores and restaurants shuttered, arts and recreation venues closed, and visits to family and friends banned – her vehicle, like many others, is sitting unused. Even her board work, which in “normal” times requires driving to attend in-person meetings, now takes place sitting at her desk in front of a computer screen.

So, what did she do about...

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Let's Get Logical

Ever since I decided to write this blog post about logical fallacies in our boardroom debate, I’ve had this refrain going through my head. I’m hoping that by sharing it with you, I will finally be free …

“Let's get logical, logical,
I wanna get logical.
Let's get into logical.
Let me hear your logic talk, your logic talk.
Let me hear your logic talk.”

- with apologies to Olivia Newton John

But seriously, logical fallacies, which are flaws in the way we apply basic logic to make arguments and solve problems, play a significant role in how people think and how they communicate with each other. That makes them a useful topic to round out our Savvy Director exploration of how thinking problems can hinder the effectiveness of directors and the boards they serve on.

Let’s take a look at how logical fallacies can interfere with a director’s ability to think clearly and rationally about the issues their board is wrestling with, and what to do about...

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What's in Your Offer?

Landing the board seat you want can be very competitive, even for the most seasoned corporate director. For the dedicated and experienced non-profit director, finding your way onto a board with influence on a cause that you care about can involve an opaque appointment process, especially if it’s controlled by government. And high-profile charities have a limited number of board seats that open up on an annual basis.

So, what can you do to set yourself apart from other well-qualified candidates?

Outside of the ‘who you know’ networking factor, having a board value proposition that highlights the unique combination of skills and experience that only you can bring is a powerful differentiator.

While good old-fashioned networking may get your foot in the door, it’s the clarity, authenticity, and persuasiveness of your board value proposition (BVP) that has the potential to get you to the interview stage and beyond.


Your value as an employee versus as...

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Biases 'R' Us

Let’s face it, a board director’s main job is to think – to think about finances, risks, strategy and people, and about all the other matters that come before a board of directors over the course of a governance year.

And while there is room around the board table for diverse thinking styles - analytical and strategic; people-focused, data-focused and process-focused; big picture thinkers and detailed thinkers; idealists, realists, and pragmatists; risk tolerant and risk averse – there’s no use for fuzzy thinking, muddled thinking or wishful thinking.

So, it’s important for an effective director to be hyper-aware of the barriers to clear thinking that affect a good decision – barriers that all of us have to cope with by virtue of being human. In previous Savvy Director blogs, we’ve written about some of those barriers such as Groupthink (Banish Groupthink from the Boardroom), subconscious assumptions (Don’t Believe Everything...

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More Music, Less News

Every edition of The Savvy Director works to connect you with some of the latest resources and thought leaders to stimulate your thinking and governance skills in becoming the most effective board director you can be. This week is no exception. We have a couple of great links for you on chairing a board.

We’re also highlighting a recently released report entitled High Performance in the Boardroom, from corporate director Tony Gaffney of Lambay Group Inc. with support from Canada’s Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) and Odgers Berndtson. More than thirty of Canada’s leading board chairs and selected executives were interviewed. Stay tuned for details about that.

But first, I have a declaration to make. Consider it as the confession of a news junkie.


Confessions of a News Junkie

“I’m a news junkie.” There, I said it. To illustrate, we have a satellite TV service with over two hundred unique channels, but I watch fewer than six, of which...

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