I have worked with so many board and committee Chairpersons over the years. Some are great, others are a disaster. Whereas a few are seasoned and highly experienced, many others just found themselves in the roles and lack the leadership skills needed to win. The good news is anyone can be a great chair if they learn three simple skills – patience, focus and step back.
Whether you are a chair of a simple party meeting or a board, you must invest in self-education and, training to acquire the essential skills needed to win in the role.
Good chairs are patient. They do not rush to complete things or take decisions. They listen to both sides. Get all the information they require. And above all, give adequate airtime to all members to have a take on the matters at hand. I have noted that great meeting chairs take a special interest in owning the agenda. They do not wait for the meeting to consider the agenda.
If you are a meeting or boardroom regular you must have noted instances whereupon calling the meeting to order, the chairperson asks members present to consider the agenda in case of any changes! Great chairs ensure the agenda is shared earlier with the meeting papers and agreed so that adequate preparation is made by all concerned. For this reason, good governance now discourages having an A.O.B, any other business, the item at the bottom of the agenda. Why? You don’t want to just start discussing something which members had not considered. Plus any other business item could be too controversial for the meeting to consider.
Great Chairs have time. The folks who are outstanding in their roles as chairs have time and are committed. To gain full picture into the business, Board Chairs ensure they have a day once a month to meet with the CEO, then meet the CEO, CFO, and Legal, and then meet CEO, IT, and HR. Remember, they rarely, if at all, meet any executive team member without the CEO, the head of the executive. To perform the role of the chair, you must understand the context and perspective in which your company operates. The role of the Board is to help the executive with insights that management does not have. That means, the executive should have access to the board members through the Chair as and when required, as long as such access is not too frequent to blur the line of oversight.
Background actor. Great chairs know their limits. You are not in the driving seat. Rather, you are the car owner, who seats aside and let someone drive. In this case, the CEO is the driver, and the board chair is the car owner who takes a low profile and sits behind. Many times, you rarely get to know the person who owns the car unless you want to fix it or sell it. That is the kind of restraint and laid-back approach a board chair must take.
This is not the role of being in the spotlight.
It is the role of supporting others behind the scenes. As a Board chair or any chair for that matter, your role is to work in the background. It is like in a political campaign, the people who lay the strategies and those who finance the campaign, are rarely in the spotlight. Even you do not see them at the swearing-in ceremony.
If you are the kind of person who wants the spotlight, always making public comments about the company, you are in the wrong role. You must understand that as a board chair, your role is to manage and guide the board of directors to win. And you are the key contact person between management and the board. You deal directly with the CEO, who you recruit and supervise.
When it comes to official duties, the CEO is the official spokesperson of the company and you must let them be in the spotlight. Plus, you must avoid taking up lots of airtime at the board meeting. Your role is to facilitate. Let your board members provide their input. Just help them to discuss in an orderly way.
Success in your meeting chairing roles.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.