Building A Boardroom
18 May 2017
There is a saying that “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” This is a sentiment that I thoroughly endorse. I am always looking to learn and be challenged by my colleagues. Naturally, everyone has their own area of expertise. It’s important, whatever stage of your career you’re at, that there is still room for growth and development.
In other words, if you’re the smartest person in the room, get out of that room. Challenge yourself; ask for more. Get out of your comfort zone and into your learning zone.
As a senior executive within a business, this rule still applies. Yes, you have the top job, but who are you surrounding yourself with? You have to be able to build a board that you can not only trust, but essentially are built to replace you.
Building a board is no easy task – it requires a lot of thought and the recruitment process can often seem complex and daunting. I have no doubt that there are many MDs and CEOs who have felt intimidated by a new member of staff that seems to ‘know more’ than they do. Ironically, this is the best thing you could do for your business.
Of course, a board will have a different remit and function within each individual business, so the crux of it is to identify the purpose of your board and build it from the ground up. It should be a response to core business needs, not an afterthought.
There is no point in surrounding yourself with people who share your exact thoughts and opinions. That will only lead to stagnation of ideas and innovation. If a business wants to push forward, it needs to be led by a board that is made of up of differing opinions, varied expertise and skill sets.
Build a team of individuals (and that really is a key word here) who possess a diverse range of skills and backgrounds in order to get different perspectives on each strategic discussion – ‘Yes Men’ need not apply. In essence, you need someone with a finance brain; a HR brain; a marketing brain. Think of the natural elements of any business and ensure they have a presence on the board.
According to Board Source, a board of directors is supposed to remain, "objective, unselfish, responsible, honest, trustworthy and efficient." The board that you assemble should be one that you can absolutely trust to make decisions in your absence. You should employ individuals who are capable of independent thought, spirited discussion and, ultimately, the ability to make difficult decisions.
And, I should point out that, in spite of any difference of opinions, your board should always have a shared focus and drive, aligned to your corporate objectives.
If you are always leading the charge and having the final say, you have put together a poorly functioning board. You should leave (almost) every board meeting willing to try something different because you have learned something from another colleague. Your board should always feel able to disagree with you – even if the ultimate decision is in your hands. That is the mark of a successful board.
I recently spoke with the very impressive Managing Partner of a high-growth, very successful Scottish start up. Their thoughts concurred exactly with that last statement – your team should always be challenging you to think differently. Innovation and ideas are at the heart of business growth.
The role of a CEO can often be one that is marked by self-doubt or loneliness. Creating a productive and commercially aware board that can add real value to your business is the perfect antidote to this. Putting together a successful board can truly transform your business.
If you need to appoint senior members of staff, and are looking for advice or guidance on the best approach for your organisation, I would be more than happy to speak with you confidentially about your options, and suitable candidates. Click here to see my details.
Written By Barry Lee