Sunday, April 27, 2014

A ‘Mindful’ Board

A mindful Board is democratic, diversified, cogitative, stimulating, and proactive.

Corporate Boards are there to oversee business strategy, to ensure reasonable governance, and hold the senior executive team accountable for execution. Modern Board as high-level governance body plays the crucial role in business advising, monitoring, and setting key tones in corporate culture as well, these are all significant responsibilities, thus, mindset, more precisely, mind shift or mind flow is so critical to director selection criteria. But what are the characteristics of those mindful BoDs and a mindful board overall?

The mindful BoDs are usually good listeners: They act like a sponge and absorb information, ask lots of questions, and all along they are really the smartest guy/gals in the room but never let on. Great debaters are good at asking lots of questions, that they already know the answer, but helps to achieve their objective. They show extreme humility as that is at the root of how they conduct themselves.

The BoD with the 'fit-for-purpose' mindset to drive business performance: While Mindset is critical to being an effective director is sometimes overlooked. Any individual who joins a board with the mindset to drive the performance of the company to its highest levels is (1) Joining for the right reason and (2) Will have no trouble speaking out when warranted. (3) Leading by asking, showing both confidence and humility at the same time. But, the follow-on question is how many individuals actually join boards with that mindset?

It's more about the boardroom culture engendered by board leaders: It’s all about leadership from the top which sets the tone and governs boardroom behavior. A new director can ask the so-called "dumb" question because they are new. Likewise, the retiring director can ask the pointed question in the best workgroups, Boards included. For any BoDs, asking the obvious shouldn't require an act of singular heroism -- and it doesn't, on boards where leaders create an environment that strips the shame from asking "just one more question.". The Board leaders play a critical role in enabling the right questioning culture in the Boardroom. Board turnover is another critical factor; change provides a less threatening environment for questioning the status quo. 

Diversity, mainly the diversity of thought and color of viewpoint help to build a mindful board: There is less pressure to know what everyone else knows or understands. The qualities/skills/ experience and mindset are needed in order for the role to be executed in a high-performance manner.  From a governance perspective, the complementary mindsets and skills will help identify management blind-spots and capture collective insight. There are some excellent directors out there who exhibit the courage to challenge assumptions or present alternative viewpoints, so once you know who they are; it’s great to follow their footprint.

A mindful Board exhibits a creative tension between collegiality and challenge: An effective Board exhibits a creative tension, that hard -to define, but you know it when you see it. There is a balancing act between collegiality and challenge. It is human nature to want to fit in and be liked. It is less common to want to add value and make things better in the face of even some perceived conflict. No challenge is one problem; overbearing interventions is another. To achieve the creative tension balance, the behavior of the Chair is key, both for what they do in meetings and what they do behind the scenes. It is a skill learned only through practice and one's fair share of understanding, without being in fear of re-appointment.

A mindful Board is democratic, diversified, cogitative, and proactive, bring different opinions and viewpoints, build creative tension between collegiality and challenge, but with the solid capability to make collective and wise decisions that get supported by all.


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