There is No “I” in Team: Why a Board of Directors Still Matters
By Dustin McKissen, August 09, 2017
The lone hero saving the day makes a pretty good story. In
sports, the lone hero can be Michael Jordan, willing the Chicago Bulls to a
victory in the 1998 NBA Finals, even while sick with the flu. In history, the
lone hero can be George Washington, leading his troops across the Delaware
River in the middle of winter. In business, the lone hero can be Steve Jobs,
single-handedly rescuing Apple from the brink of irrelevancy.
Very rarely—if ever—do you read about the heroic board of
directors, that, after days of tough discussions, comes to a consensus that
incorporates the diverse perspectives of multiple stakeholders. That sentence
alone is a good example of how less exciting the story of good board leadership
can be, as opposed to defeating the British despite starvation and hypothermia.
However, boards of directors exist for a reason. One person,
no matter how skilled, capable, or even brilliant has limitations. The lone
hero narrative is also not reality. Steve Jobs had Jonathan Ivie to design all
those products. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. George Washington had…the
If they didn’t do it alone, what does that say about the
rest of us?
As a former trade association and nonprofit executive, I can
tell you that working for a board wasn’t always easy. Having 10-12 bosses with
different personalities, ideas, and visions for the organization’s future never
is. That said, the directors I worked for had perspectives I never had. Those
perspectives created insight and strategy that one person could never develop
on their own. The old adage that two minds are better than one is usually true,
and it is particularly true for small and midsized organizations that are
led by a board of directors.
But to fully maximize the potential benefits of its board of
directors, an organization needs to do two things.
The first is to fill board seats strategically. In other
words, recruit directors with diverse skill sets and experiences. Include
directors with functional areas of expertise, rather than just general
leadership experience. While recruiting for a board can be challenging enough
without having specific criteria for directors, developing job descriptions for
directors and using LinkedIn to find candidates that match those job
descriptions will pay off in the long run.
The barrier to getting people to join a board is often a
lack of clarity regarding what’s required of a director, so the mere act of
recruiting strategically will help your organization attract high-quality board
The second step to getting the most out of your board is to
make sure your directors are spending time working on tasks that are
mission-focused and help your organization achieve its vision. Too often board
members spend what little time they have for the organization on just figuring
out how to be a director.
What do we mean by that?
Boards frequently lack job descriptions, and directors often do
not receive an orientation that outlines how the board functions. Directors are
also forced to slog through piles of paper just to find the latest agenda or
minutes. If you want to create a board that adds value, start by developing job
descriptions and an orientation that gives directors a sense of what will be
expected of them, as well as how the board functions.
And start using BoardPaq, the board portal of
choice for cost-conscious organizations. BoardPaq is designed to bring boards
into the 21st century with a paperless solution that allows
directors and the organization’s staff to focus more on value-added activities,
and less on administrative tasks.
No matter what the stories say, Michael Jordan, George
Washington, and Steve Jobs didn’t do it alone.
And neither will you.
You need your board of directors.
So give them the tools they need to be a high-performing
board, starting with BoardPaq.