Boardroom behaviours: Five tips for board success

We recently hosted a webcast on the behaviours of a high-performing board and board member. The panel included the incredibly knowledgeable and experienced:

  • Gillian Coutts, Deputy Chair, Uniting
  • Kyle Loades, Non-Executive Director, CUA; Chairman, Hunter Medical Research Institute; Chairman, DriveYello
  • Catherine Maxwell FGIA, Executive Manager — Policy and Advocacy, Governance Institute of Australia (moderator).

The panellists shared their personal insights on the attributes of an effective board director.

Here are the top five tips that I gained from the webcast.

  1. Invest in your soft skills

Most directors are concerned about being across the details. But learning to deal with innate behaviour and awareness of behaviours is equally as important. You need to be comfortable asking the tough questions. You should seek feedback on your performance in the boardroom.

Awareness of your personal strengths and weaknesses is critical. Being a director is a difficult job and you’re continually learning. You need to remember that everyone has walked a different pathway to the board. The strongest directors don’t talk on every issue. You should give others the opportunity to share, particularly if their skills and experience are better aligned with the issue — so spend your ‘director currency’ wisely.

Invest in boardroom relationships, particularly during the informal meetings, such as boardroom dinners. This will help you understand the background, thinking and rationale of your fellow board colleagues. Mutual respect is key to good boardroom dynamics.

  1. Be adaptable and stay curious

You need to be able to amend your own thinking. Gillian mentioned that your ability to observe your own thinking will help you with this challenging task.

Kyle reminded us that disruption is all around us. We need to stay curious. Own the strategy with the CEO and trust management in their implementation.

  1. Know your director role boundaries

Executives transitioning to the board is a natural career progression. But the role contradicts your executive thinking and sometimes it won’t be comfortable. You’re no longer an executive. You need to take a step back as a director and recognise you are there to support the CEO and key executive by providing guidance and oversight. You need to respectfully challenge management with insightful questions that drive the strategy or performance of the organisation forward.

  1. Master boardroom dynamics

The dynamics of an effective board is critical. The chair needs to support this — their role is crucial, particularly to ensure that new board members have the ability to contribute.

The dynamics between the board and the executive is also important. It can’t be an ‘us and them’ dynamic. The chair and the CEO play a crucial role in creating a collaborative and supportive space.

  1. The chair’s role is critical

Everyone in the boardroom cares about the business. They would not be there if they didn’t. And the chair is critical to a high-performance board. They need to foster a collegiate, transparent and respectful culture so that everyone has a chance to speak and that each person present is cognisant that their behaviour matters.

The chair is first among equals. You’re there to perform a role, to extend the business and improve effectiveness. Your role in leading strategy and ensuring non-financial matters have appropriate focus is equally as important as traditional director responsibilities such as monitoring and oversight.

Be an effective director

Want to become a more effective director and invest those all-important soft skills? Register your interest for The Effective Director Course.


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