In today’s rapidly shifting and complex world, boards have a critical and demanding role to play. And it just keeps getting more challenging all the time.
One of the best ways for boards to stay in front of the learning curve is to evaluate their performance and make improvements in those areas where there are clear ‘low hanging’ opportunities. Some sort of regular evaluation process is fairly common for most boards these days, although I must say that there’s lots of variability in terms of the depth and quality of those evaluations.
During my work my work with boards gathering multi-rater feedback on CEO performance, I get the inevitable question about how best to improve their own evaluation process – what opportunities for changes to content, format and process are both possible and advisable.
My typical response, these days, is for boards to take additional time to include some element of feedback related to individual board member performance – not just the board’s collective performance.
Probably the easiest approach is to start with self-evaluations and eventually incorporate multi-rater feedback in which board members solicit input from all of their colleagues (and perhaps senior staff members) regarding their work on the board. A good middle ground can be a survey that asks how board members view themselves, as a group, around specific director responsibilities and behaviours.
Board member attributes worth examining in a multi-rater approach include:
- Strategic Intent – contributing to, monitoring of and actively supporting strategic direction and priorities;
- Personal Effectiveness – demonstrating the organization’s values and aligning individual behaviour with key principles that guide the business;
- Engaging Others – actively strengthening relationships both internal and external to the board;
- Communications – effectively communicating with board colleagues regarding the work of the board as well as with key external stakeholders regarding major organizational priorities;
- Decision-making – using systematic and agreed-upon approaches to solving problems and arriving at key decisions;
- Perspective – demonstrating a commitment to serving primary shareholders – safeguarding and advancing their interests and aspirations.
From my experience, incorporating feedback on board member presence, behaviour and contribution can have some very positive benefits including:
- More productive board meetings with increased clarity, focus and alignment;
- Enhanced group dynamics and improved relationships among board members;;
- Better decisions with higher likelihood of successful implementation and realization of desired results;
- Greater engagement and higher levels of satisfaction for both board members and senior staff.
So next time your board is reviewing its performance, think about offering board members some additional feedback – it should generate some very real and immediate ‘wins’.