Filling the Gaps: What to Look For in a New Board Member?
Tuesday, 11th June 2013 at 11:38 am
Advisory Boards are constantly in a state of flux; industry trends and economic fluctuations, as well as an increasingly reliance on technology, often mean that new expertise or fresh knowledge is in demand.
The successful evolution of a Board is critical in sustaining any company’s continual achievements, yet conducting an effective Board Search and obtaining the ideal Board composition is often easier said than done.
As an experienced Board Search specialist, I frequently see many Advisory Boards and organisations become lost when they are trying to decide what they want in a new Board member. They are either too vague or general in their approach or they instead want to dive into a shortlist of candidates and figure out which one best fits their bill, without giving any significant thought to what that bill is or what criteria they want to use as measurement.
Diversity is critical for any Board. Diversity in members brings with it a reliable variety of knowledge, skills and experience, which is key in driving successful governance.
Board Directors with too similar skills or experience can often lead to one-sided opinions and decisions and this can pave the way for both risk and failure. However, Boards and organisations should remember that although diversity is valuable, it should not completely dominate the Board Search.
The new Board member, while bringing diversity to the table, also needs to be able to ask the right questions and make the best decisions for the organisation. In short, Boards need to ask: Are we interested in this person simply because they make our Board more diverse? Or are they really the right person for the job, with the right capabilities to make the hard decisions we face?
2. Knowledge & Experience
The knowledge of any new Board member is fundamental and you’ll no doubt encounter many highly experienced candidates during your Board Search. So which is the right one? A detailed analysis of your Board will help you to identify any gaps that currently exist in the way of knowledge, experience and adeptness – and you can then use this analysis (among other things) to inform your Board Search.
- What specific knowledge and/or experience are you looking for in a new Board Director?
- Does the knowledge and experience you are looking for differ from what existing Board members already bring to the table?
- What are the knowledge/experience gaps in your Board? Do you understand what risks or dangers these gaps bring?
- How does the knowledge of your shortlisted candidate/s fill these gaps? Will their skills and experience be enough to reduce your risk and enhance the success of your decisions?
The reputation of any new Board Director is also of utmost importance, since a Director with bad stigma can tarnish the reputation of both the Board and the organisation. It will be in your best interests throughout your Board Search to scrutinise the reputations of your shortlisted Directors. You will need to consider the evidence that informs each reputation (whether good or bad) and investigate any assumptions about a particular candidate. What good/bad decisions have they made in the past? What are their previous accomplishments/failures while governing Boards?
4. Culture & Personality
Every Not for Profit organisation – and every Board – has a distinct culture and it’s important that any new Board member best matches your organisational and governance culture. On an individual level, new members need to be able to fit in with the processes and procedures involved with the Board’s decisions, as well as get along with other Board members, add strength to the existing relationships and mesh with the Board’s current dynamics.
Yet culture also goes deeper than this: an effective new Director should be able blend with the personalities on the existing Board or management team and share the company’s values, but also be willing to challenge perspectives and question the habits or behaviour of the culture itself in order to drive the company’s mission forward.
Kylie Hammond is the Founder and CEO of Board Portfolio, one of Australia’s leading Board Consultancies.
Board Portfolio now offers their world-class Board Search services on a pro bono basis to Australian Charity and Not for Profit organisations. For more details contact Mike Hayes on (02) 9922 6175, or firstname.lastname@example.org and ensure you get access to the best talent for your board.