How to empower your board to add value

Leadership is most needed during times of crisis, ambiguity, and worries due to uncertainty about the future. It is the leader’s role to provide

Leadership is most needed during times of crisis, ambiguity, and worries due to uncertainty about the future. It is the leader’s role to provide clarity of the direction, communicate a clear roadmap to manage any crisis and remove uncertainty and ambiguity so that the team is calm focused.

Timely communication aids board effectiveness

People always look up to the leader for guidance when things are not moving in the right direction. Imagine driving in a taxi, and after three kilometers into the journey, you experience a car breakdown. Depending on the extent of the problem, a good driver will stop and check to determine the problem. If they are unable to solve it, they will call a mechanic. After the mechanic has arrived, he may conduct an on-site assessment of the problem or could ask for the car to be taken to the garage. Usually, the driver will call the car owner for leadership to guide on the next steps. This means, the bigger the problem, the deeper the involvement of the most senior leader.

You can easily tell leadership failure, by the way, the most senior leader gets involved in small problems. For example, would a competent executive involve the Board to solve the problem of delays in cleaning the office by the cleaners? Such an issue should be handled at the unit level or manager level, at worst.  The board’s role stops at approving the executive’s annual work plan and budget, aligned to the board-approved strategy.

The point is, when the problem is too big, people will revert to the leader by providing a timely report of the situation to him or her and wait for timely guidance from the leader. For that reason, effective and timely communication is the secret that makes great leaders and institutions. Good leaders invest in communication capabilities and reward the culture of effective communication.

Now than before, companies need good boards to provide leadership to navigate the #covid19 pandemic. Is your board working around the clock, asking for status updates or they are just waiting for your call? Like any leader, board members require timely updates and information about what is going on. The worst thing you can do as a Chief Executive is to keep your board members in darkness. Likewise, good managers provide timely reports to their supervisors.

It is the role of the executive to empower the board to add value.

The top management team must provide timely reports, board packs and business insights in time so that the board focuses on what matters most. The primary role of the board is to support the CEO to make money. The CEO must find strategies to add value and bring money to the table.

Board orientation improves board effectiveness…

Next, the Board Chairman working closely with the Chief Executive Officer (assuming this role is not held by one person as many US companies do e.g. Facebook), must organize board orientation every time a new board member is appointed or elected. The orientation of the board should be conducted to all members regardless of the number of new ones. This also helps create teaming and knowledge chairing.

During board members’ orientation, the first step is to review materials that all board members should receive. Some of the materials are:

  1. The board charter, which provides an overview of the organization, structure, board composition, board committee, and board member job description
  2. The organization structure and job descriptions of key staff members – especially at the senior management level. In any organization’s, the board is involved in the recruitment of staff at management level and above – including heads of departments or directorates. In that case, all staff that cannot be terminated without the express approval of the board must be included.
  3. Relevant laws and regulations, policies and procedures, any bylaws applicable to the organization. For example, at a Board retreat of say NSSF board, members must be given an overview of the NSSF act, and each board member is given a copy of the same to read and keep for reference
  4. Annual reports; and analysis that show the performance of the organization.
  5. Personnel, financial, and other board policies and relevant SOPs – at least a listing of them all. Board members need to know the key policies in place
  6. Names, addresses, phone numbers, and biographical sketches of board members and key staff members to ease contacts and collaboration – for each person, including their photo and specialty – lawyer or accountant or engineer, etc
  7. List of committees and committee duties
  8. Minutes of last several board meetings for reference including matters arising
  9. Audits, budgets, and recent financial statements.
  10. List of common abbreviations and terminology, often used
  11. Executive director’s scorecard targets and annual work plan, and evidence of approval of the same by the Board
  12. Strategic plans, business plan, and other planning documents.
  13. Funding applications; and list of strategic partners and funding
  14. List of outstanding cases, including the probable outcome
  15. For more information on the list, visit 7tools of an effective board member book.

When you orient your board members, they gain a clear picture of expectations from the executive management. This builds trust, improves communication and establishes a strong foundation for winning at board level.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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