Board Leadership by Sonia McDonald CEO & Founder LeadershipHQ
The ability to oversee and govern your organisation, define its values, mission, and goals, and also create its culture, comes down to your board’s relative strength. Building a strong board is a difficult task for CEOs, Board Chairs, and allied board members, but it is more important than ever.
Over the past several years, news reports from around the world have been filled with stories of various financial scandals, including product liability lawsuits, insider trading, internal theft and business failures. While the names of the institution’s involved change and the specific details differ on a few points, the one constant thread in all of these situations is a failure of leadership, an absence of integrity in the culture, and a failure on the part of the board of directors to actively provide direction.
- Challenges to Effective Board Governance
One reason why we are seeing more boards that are weak and lack strength is that the challenges that our top institutions face are rapidly changing. In addition to traditional governance and oversight areas such as strategic planning, recruiting top talent, and weighing in on potential mergers and acquisitions, organisations now contend with a host of other more complex issues.
These issues are wide-ranging and include dealing with the effects of technological advances that both improve and disrupt the way that we live and work, seeking options for how to succeed despite increased competition from domestic and international rivals, and even how to survive actual battles for control of the direction of the organisation from activist investors.
To meet all of these competing demands, it’s imperative that boards intentionally move from traditional, passive roles and embrace a more dynamic and active approach. The following are four core areas that your board must focus on improving in order to create a stronger and more effective board.
- Lead by Example and Start at the Top – The Case for Ambition
If you want a stronger board that is more engaged and directly involved with providing governance and oversight, you must literally start at the top. Boards must appoint Chairs that will push themselves and their fellow board members to take a more active role in investigating the key challenges facing the institution and developing strategies and solutions to these challenges that remain consistent with the organisation’s core values, mission statement and goals.
The Chair sets the tone and the pace for the rest of the board, so ideally boards need Chairs that are ambitious and that will actively seek out new ideas, diverse opinions, multiple options and even contrarian viewpoints in order to find the best direction in which to guide the organisation.
We love this article from Future Directors too around 5 Motivations for Wanting to Become a Board Director?
- Cooperation, Partnership, and Collaboration
One of the greatest challenges to effective board leadership is a lack of trust and mutual respect among its members or between the board and the CEO and other management. In order to have a strong board, the board Chair and CEO need to be able to work together in partnership and cooperation, rather than in competition with one another.
Board Chairs need to able to work with their fellow board members, and their CEO and each must facilitate more frequent opportunities for communication and more open communication styles.
Boards must do the hard work of taking an active approach to developing relationships with one another, their Chair, and the CEO, so that they are able to more freely discuss all issues that the institution faces and have frank, direct and sometimes even pointed discussions so that they can make better, more fully informed decisions.
Strong bonds enable boards to be able to get to the heart of the matter without fear of causing offense or otherwise stepping on anyone’s toes. In the end, this more active, direct, and dynamic approach helps boards to develop better strategies for dealing with all of the changes and disruptions that are taking place within their organisation and the marketplace.
This is why we are hosting a Board Leadership Workshop at Rivercity Labs on 25th July at 5.30pm. We need more Future Board Directors and Future Directors is offering a chance to win FREE Scholarship to one of those programs!
- Dive Deep and Encourage Diverse Ideas and Perspectives
Building strong bonds between the Board Chair, the CEO, and the board members, and facilitating more open communication is just one part of strengthening the strategic capacity of a board. While the board Chair and CEO must cooperate and work in partnership with one another, boards and their Chairs must still maintain their independence from the CEO and other management.
As part of their oversight and governance duties, boards and their Chair must actively seek out alternative viewpoints and ensure that they have a full and unobstructed view of all of the issues and details surrounding a specific challenge. Oftentimes this means that boards will need specific training and development in order to be informed and competent in specific areas.
Rather than serving as a rubber stamp for the CEO and management of an organisation, boards and their Chairs must dive deep into issues and challenges and the organisation’s comprehensive strategies. From IT and risk management to digital trends, media, marketing and branding and even the safeguarding of the organisation’s reputation, nearly every performance area of an organisation should come under the oversight of the board.
- Make Meetings and Agenda Items Count
Many boards only meet a few times a year, but strong boards make these meetings count by getting actual work accomplished. Board Chairs can strengthen their board and increase its impact and effectiveness by setting an aggressive and ambitious agenda.
Ideally, board meetings should first begin with a short reception that will allow members to mingle, connect and bond with one another before getting down to business. This sets a collegial tone for the rest of the meeting and helps put everyone in the right frame of mind and be more willing to cooperate and work with one another.
Next, the key challenges facing the organisation should become the focal point for the rest of the meeting agenda and should include potential options for strategy and other action items. To keep the board’s morale and momentum moving forward, Chairs should allow strategic thinking and planning to take up the lion’s share of the agenda, and save old business and follow up reports for the end.
As boards become more actively engaged in the governance and oversight of the organisation, they should periodically review their performance, as well as that of their Chair and their CEO, to see how well they are doing at transforming their board and the organisation as a whole.
Setting ambitious goals for organisational change and comparing the results against industry metrics can help boards to evaluate their performance in a more unbiased manner and help them to be able to identify and focus on new areas for improvement.
How active and strong is your organisation’s board and how effective is your board at managing change? Do you know in what areas your board excels and can you identify what areas your board should focus on to improve its effectiveness?
Get in touch today to learn more about how our executive board coaching and advisory or our board leadership programs can help you to develop the leadership skills that you need to help you strengthen your board and increase its effectiveness.
Getting our team the resources that they need to meet their goals and objectives and perform at a high level is a key focus of many leaders. Looking out for our team members, and their well-being, isn’t just good for them, it’s good for us, and our companies. However, being a leader isn’t just about high performance and chasing success so that we can receive more recognition or make more money and earn more rewards.
In order to be a great leader, we must have a servant’s heart and help others. By placing the needs of others above our own, we build incredibly powerful bonds of trust, respect and cooperation. These bonds make everyone open to sharing and collaboration.
Everyone becomes more willing to work together. By working together and helping one another, we achieve more than any of us would by working alone and doing all of the tasks ourselves.
What Does it Mean to Have Your People’s Back?
When most of us think about meeting the needs of our fellow colleagues and peers however, we tend to think mainly about what physical resources they need to achieve their goals.
For example, if we offer someone more training and education and more opportunities to take on challenges, will they grow and develop both personally and professionally and achieve more success for themselves and for the company?
If we allow someone greater flexibility in their scheduling, or perhaps grant a department more payroll dollars, will they actually achieve more and do better work than just leaving things the way that they are now?
Why Happiness and Emotional Health isn’t Even on the Radar for Many Leaders
Few leaders, even really great ones, ever stop to think about the mental and emotional health and well-being of their team members. For most, this is not an issue where leaders don’t care how their team members feel so much as some leaders fear that they might be prying. Other leaders worry that they might offend a team member if they ask how they are doing and if there is something that we can do to make their work and their lives easier for them.
Some falsely believe that there is nothing that can be done to increase happiness and satisfaction in their workplace so they simply leave any concerns unacknowledged.
Probably the most popular myth that holds leaders back from being concerned about happiness on their team is the false belief that happiness in the workplace can be increased simply by offering someone a greater salary or other material reward.
Putting the Team’s Emotional Health and Happiness First is the Key to Leadership Success
The results of several studies reported in an infographic earlier this year at Hubspot clearly indicate that leaders and companies that put their team’s happiness at work reap a number of benefits. Teams with greater emotional stability and levels of happiness have members with greater engagement, creativity and problem solving abilities.
Teams with happy members also help companies operate more smoothly and efficiently and even increased the bottom line at many Fortune 100 companies by an average of 22% in one year alone! Unhappy teams are also quite costly, as unhappiness can increase indirectly increase company healthcare costs to treat addiction and mental illness in their workforce.
Based on this research, leaders can increase the performance of their teams, and experience more success, by making the effort to increase the happiness and emotional health of their teams!
Steps to Take to Increase the Emotional Health of Your Team
As reported in the same infographic at Hubspot, happiness in the workplace really isn’t an accident. There are a number of steps that leaders can take to lighten the level of stress that their teams experience and increase their happiness and productivity.
Break for It! Encourage your team to take breaks about every hour and a half or so, and lead by example and take breaks yourself! Teams that take breaks come back to their work with greater focus and the ability to think more creatively, which will boost their ability to come up with new ideas, improvements and solutions!
Make it Meaningful. Give your team members work that has meaning, so that they feel that their efforts matter and will be more willing to put forth their best efforts.
Help Your Team Define their Personal “Why.” Why do your work?” “Why are you here?” “Who benefits when you do your best?” Knowing why you are at work, and reminding yourself who benefits from your effort,” can increase team’s feelings of responsibility and pride. Encourage your team to figure out their own personal “why,” and also encourage them to remember their “why” throughout their day.
Variety adds Energy. Doing the same thing, day in, day out, is monotonous and boring, so cross train your team and rotate assignments, as well as shake things up with completely new twists to the work day, to keep your team from becoming bored and burning out. A popular belief is that having a routine provides a sense of security, when in reality it can feel very dull and stressful. So offer your team a variety of tasks as often as possible.
Boost Esteem and Well-Being with Empowerment. Reduce the stress levels of your team by ditching your micro-managing ways and grant them autonomy to make decisions. Giving your team more control will increase their sense of fulfillment and help them to grow.
Share, Consult, And Create. Show your team just how important, and trusted that they are by sharing your insider knowledge with them. Open the lines of communication and increase cooperation by allowing them to offer feedback and to help design projects, set benchmarks and measure their own success.
Rather than leading through direction, lead through partnership and collaboration. When success is achieved, don’t hog the spotlight! Share the credit, recognition and rewards from your mutual creations!
As you place a greater focus on creating an emotionally healthy workplace and increasing the happiness levels of every member of your team, you will see an increase in productivity and efficiency and reap the rewards in the form of greater leadership success!
If you need some further guidance on how to get started transforming your workplace and your team, get in touch today, we’re here to help! From leadership and people strategies to coaching and leadership development, we can help you get the tools that you need to increase the success of you and your team and take your leadership to the next level!
Happy New Year! I have to say I am so excited about 2011. Don’t ask me why…maybe because I know this year is destined for great things for you, Leadership and me in the 21st Century.
Firstly, thank you for taking your precious time out to read my first blog post! I have been thinking for some time to start a blog and a few months back a wise astrologer told me that he saw on my chart that I was a great writer and I should start a blog, and wanted to know what was stopping me. What the?
What does stop us? Fear, time, commitment? All of which I put my hand up to as useless excuses! Well he did say it was on my chart. Now who am I to detour from my chart and not go ahead with it? I am a tenacious Cancerian by the way and once I get my head and heart around something, there is no stopping me!
Why LeadershipHQ you might be asking (or not)? I did ponder for a while on this one. I felt LeadershipHQ really encompassed what I am crazy and passionate about – Talent Management and Leadership Development and Effectiveness as well as knowledge sharing and best practice. Leadership Headquarters…what do you think? Don’t answer that one as my mind is already made up.
I thought to myself; a one stop blog and knowledge centre for what is the latest, greatest, not so great, my views, your views, and really everything to do with all aspects of Talent Management and Leadership would be a great blog!
And believe me, I research, read, listen, learn and talk about everything in this space…and I also have a life! I am that passionate about it…incredibly! I love to teach and I hope you do take something away from this… (My astrologer also mentioned this – and this is the last time he will be mentioned in case you don’t believe in this stuff). Or maybe you can teach me something?
Whether it is out there by Peter Drucker, Deepak Chopra or John Maxwell, me, you or about inspiring or holistic leadership or latest talent management techniques, I am going to write about it all and share with you…now I am getting excited!
In turn, you might take away something to think about, pass on, discuss, implement, drive, deliver, make a difference, or create something, or simply build on your skills and abilities to develop your role and take your career to a different level and become a truly great leader. Maybe you will discover some new things about yourself and the people around you …
I am looking forward to sharing the LeadershipHQ journey with you and thank you for reading.
I remember standing there in Shanghai, China and my world had just fallen apart. My beautiful and warm apartment was suddenly cold and ugly. I wanted to crawl under a rock. I was left a full time single mum living in a foreign country and I had no idea what I was going to do next. I suppose it was when the survival mode of my brain kicked in and I knew I had to make a choice. I made a choice to stand tall and reinvent myself. Here my journey began. A journey where today I am the unlikely Entrepreneur of a leadership consulting company. One that has been the toughest but best thing I have done.
My unlikely journey was one that I never expected I would take but I had to adapt to the circumstances and environment I was in at the time, and survive. I wonder why I waited until my world fell part to take control of my life and follow my passions and not before? Don’t wait for something life changing to happen to change your life!
How did I do it?
I discovered my passion, leadership. I became a semi expert. Not an expert as I didn’t want to stop learning. I became a flip chart and journal queen for a year and wrote down every insight and idea. I created an amazing company from a blog! I was clear on my brand and purpose. I use social media big time. I surrounded myself with people (my cheerleaders) who encouraged and supported me unequivocally. I found myself some amazing mentors (3 incredible men!). I live and breathe leadership. I read, I learn, and I practice self-development every day. I create opportunities for myself. I drive my own path and say yes to things that I know will challenge me. I empower and inspire those around me, as I want everyone to be more successful than me! I am always driving change and innovation. I ask for feedback, okay sometimes this is hard to hear. I am always thinking outside the square. I backed myself and have incredible self-belief. I learnt confidence.
Lessons and Learning
I keep abreast of the industry. I nurture my relationships and believe in karma. I never give up, even though I get some big knocks. I share my business with my amazing daughter and she loves being involved! I look forward and learn from my past. I reflect and grow; I learn lessons. I see failure as learnings. I stay true to my values. I share knowledge and insights to help others. I work with people who have their own amazing strengths (I can’t be great at everything!). I let go of people who put holes in my row boat (this is tough at times). I watch my thinking and only let positive actors on my stage (Brain). I watch my ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) and squash them. I accept I am not perfect. I am enough.
I am not saying it is easy.
Far from it. There have been plenty of days where I wondered if it is worth all this VERY hard work. But then I think of the days where I am making a difference, creating great leaders, teams and organisations, being published in magazines and newspapers and sharing my insights and ideas. The days I am speaking at amazing conferences, working and meeting with great people. I am creating and innovating new ideas and programs. Okay it is REALLY cool. I am inspired every day.
I am an unlikely Entrepreneur. I am an unlikely number of things, we all are. But I wonder if you had a passion, idea or dream, how unlikely or brilliant it is, whether you are willing to do something about it?
All I can say is that I if I can do it, you can!
There is a growing recognition within the recruitment industry that the head-hunting business is booming, but the number and calibre of candidates required is proving hard to source. The ‘talent shortage’ is being felt in many sectors, as employers seek to fill vacancies in businesses that in previous years have found it necessary to downsize.
This, the final quarter of 2014 is being billed as one of the greatest growth periods in the last four years, and employers are having trouble finding the employees they need to capitalise on this growth. It is a problem that should be taken seriously, as a shortage of talent often results in reduced productivity. Affected organisations might notice a drop in the morale and creativity of their existent employees, and a higher staff turnover. These factors easily combine to result in a compromised ability to stand up to the competition.
But all is not lost. The mismatch between those looking for positions and those looking to hire them has several aspects, and both employers and prospective employees can do their part to bridge the gap. In order for recruiters to secure the best talent, hiring organisations should have very clearly established and communicated requirements, and offer attractive packages for the right candidates.
To attract the finest talent, employers might want to consider providing flexible work arrangements or other perks for the right person. Another possibility worth considering is a job share arrangement, or separation of duties into two different positions, if it is proving impossible to find one individual with all required skills. Many candidates, and women in particular, may find these options appealing as they can help ease the pressures associated with simultaneous parenting and employment.
Recruiters should have a clear idea of what an organisation is looking for, and some companies, such as those in the IT industry, may benefit from a specialist recruiter. With proper knowledge, the recruiter should encourage management to look at all candidates that are a near fit. Candidates who find they are almost what employees need should design their resumes to emphasise the qualities they already possess that indicate they are capable of growing within an organisation to fit what the employer requires.
An effective interview process should give both parties opportunity to discover how near the fit is, and employers may do well to consider trainable candidates, especially those who meet a solid 80% of desired criteria.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked sources is the pool of talent already within the organisations walls. If a position is proving hard to fill from the outside, perhaps there are people already at work within the organisation whose duties can be extended to cover the gap. With well-designed professional development programs, a ‘talent pipeline’ can be set up, whereby current employees are given opportunities to extend and develop their skills to fill anticipated gaps as required.
There is a war brewing, and competition for choice candidates is likely to get tougher before things improve, but clever tactics and solid management will see many organisations profit through this time of growth.
If your organisation has yet to develop a talent pipeline, contact LeadershipHQ today and we will help you develop your leadership strategy.
I have had the most amazing week! I had the pleasure of speaking at the LeadX where we had 8 remarkable women speaking on innovation, productivity and performance in a TED style event at QUT Business School. What a fantastic event with over 160 attendees who were inspired and empowered to be the best they can be!
I had never seen myself as an entrepreneur. I knew I was great at my job but I pictured myself working for large, global organisations for a long time, or at least until I wanted to make a change.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, my journey as an entrepreneur began when I found myself as a single mum, alone and penniless in a foreign country. I had given up my corporate job to support my husband’s career progression, which had taken us all the way to China.
When I returned to Australia, I was determined to rebuild our lives and provide a secure future for myself and my daughter. What I didn’t realise was that out of the crumpled wreck had emerged a new woman; one who wanted something different, and one who wanted to give other women the ability to stand on their own two feet, no matter what happened to them.
It took my world falling apart before I realized how passionate I was about leadership and gave myself permission to reach for it as a career. Once I’d done that, I was unstoppable. I found that I had an insatiable curiosity about the role of the leader, the skills they needed and what actually happened in their brains to make one a great leader and the other just average.
I didn’t want to stop learning. I became a flip chart and journal queen for a year and wrote down every insight and idea that I had.
When you discover your passion, everything else seems to fall into place. It sparks a desire to learn and keep on learning, but it also makes you question what you’re finding, too. I found myself asking “But why…?” or “If we just changed this…?”
Innovation springs out of questioning the status quo, and I certainly did that. I questioned myself and I questioned my mentors and experts in the field. The more I asked, the more questions I realised I had. It’s as though my thinking processes were accelerated by the learning.
I had so many ideas that it was inevitable that I wanted to act on them, and that’s when my leadership blog morphed into a business. I knew that I had the ability to use all this information to change lives – I had a career record to prove it. Still, it’s a very different proposition to go out on your own and start the business of your dreams.
Sometimes you just have to believe you can fly. I had my daughter to inspire me, and some wonderful friends and mentors who kept telling me that I could do it. One day I simply chose to believe them. If they believed in me, who was I to say they were wrong?
Today I am CEO of my own business and every day I am making a difference, creating great leaders, teams and organisations, and empowering women to believe in themselves and take the lead. I might be an unlikely entrepreneur, but it turns out that I’m a good one.
I know that LeadershipHQ will keep evolving and growing because I’m still asking those “what if..?” questions. That’s something I will do until the day I die, and I’ll be happy doing it. After all, that’s where all the new ideas are found, and there’s nothing I like more than a great idea.