Enhancing the Effectiveness of the Boardroom – Part 2

In our first article on this topic we examined the decision making process within the boardroom and considered some of the issues that are likely to militate against its efficient, progressive and dynamic operation. We concluded that the key to enhancing the effectiveness of such a boardroom is in introducing an atmosphere where compromise was accepted by its members to be a fundamental component of effective decision-making. In this, the concluding part of the article, we will look at some of the strategies that might be employed to achieve this climate within the boardroom and thus enhance its effectiveness in helping the business in its pursuit of its corporate mission.

The Chair

If the boardroom is key to the effective strategic management of the business, the board’s chair is equally vital to the effective operation of the board. It is essential that the chair is able to understand the discreet nature of the role. A chair should, therefore, clearly discern that the role involves ensuring that the board is effective in setting and implementing the direction and strategy of the organisation. The chair should make sure that the members are given detailed, up to date and clear information and that they are all able to participate in discussions and decision making. The chair should administer debates with a view to emerging with a consensus decision and should ensure that the members are clear about what has been agreed upon by providing a concise summary of the proceedings. The role of the chair is not to run the business.

The Board Members

If the role of the chair is being performed in the manner described above, the individual members are likely to find it far easier to have a voice in the boardroom, to feel fully involved in the decision making process and, if necessary, to accept the need to compromise their own views in favour of those of other members. They can be further assisted by being encouraged to improve upon their own personal advocacy skills so that they can more effectively present their own viewpoint in clear and concise terms. In a similar vein, individual board members should be helped to develop an ability to make the necessary enquiries during meetings in order to obtain the evidence necessary to reach a reasoned and informed decision.

The Board as a Whole

The board as a whole should be encouraged to consider the nature of its position within the organisation. It should further explore its relationship with the other limbs of the business and examine how the values, behaviours and attitudes that it portrays impact upon them and upon the operation of the organisation as a whole. In order to encourage reasoned debate, enhance levels of trust and create an atmosphere where compromise is valued, rather than perceived as negative, the board should be enabled to gain an insight into any unconscious dynamics within it that may have the effect of adversely impacting on its performance. If any board member reveals a lack of ability or inclination to adopt a compromise-friendly behaviour model, this should be addressed through individual mentoring and coaching.

Summary

We at Adcurata believe that positive progress towards enhancing boardroom effectiveness, through the introduction of the type of strategies referred to above, can be achieved over a relatively short period. A typical format would involve three meetings of approximately two hours, at a location other than the board’s normal meeting place, with an interval of four to six weeks between meetings to allow time to reflect on and experiment with the new forms of behaviour. Within this relatively short timescale, a boardroom can be transformed from one that struggles to reach decisions, whose meetings are marked by mistrust, disharmony and disunity and whose members lack empathy towards one another into a truly effective organ of the business.

Article written by Lindsay Dubock
Chief Executive Officer, Adcurata Limited
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