The board-savviest CEOs I’ve worked with over the past two decades pay close attention to transforming their board members into strong owners of their governing work: the governing decisions and judgments they make and the critical governing “products” they generate (for example, an updated vision statement; the annual budget). Experience has taught them that board members who feel like owners make more reliable partners who can be depended on not to fade away when the going gets tough. When a board truly owns a governing product such as an updated vision statement, that board is firmly committed to that vision statement, and the odds that it will end up gathering dust on the proverbial shelf, exerting little if any influence, are slim. Ownership and commitment are natural partners.
So how can you turn your board members into real owners of their governing work and products? In my experience, there’s only one reliable way: you’ve got to ensure that your board members are systematically and formally involved in:
- Mapping out the processes (for example, strategic planning; budgeting; performance monitoring) for involving board members in making the decisions and judgments that constitute their governing work. What board work sessions, for example, will be held as the annual budget document is being developed? What will board members do in these sessions? How long will this last? Who will run them? Etc.
- Ensuring that these governing processes involve board members proactively and substantively in shaping the major governing “products” (such as a values statement or set of strategic goals). Board member involvement is “proactive” when it occurs early enough in a process such as strategic planning to have significant influence in shaping outcomes, rather than board members merely serving as an audience for an essentially finished strategic plan late in the planning process. By “substantive,” I mean that the involvement make full use of board members’ intelligence, experience, expertise, knowledge, and diverse perspectives.
This excerpt is from Doug Eadie’s newest book, Building a Rock-Solid Partnership With Your Board (Governance Edge, 2008).
© Doug Eadie; all rights reserved