No Match Found
A widely accepted notion is that corporate boards function like well-oiled machines. And why shouldn’t they? At their core, boards are more than a group of highly qualified individuals — they are sophisticated teams, assembled to work together smoothly while bringing diversity of thought, expertise and experience to their oversight role.
But problematic group dynamics can derail all kinds of teams, and boards are no exception. Directors brought onto boards for their creativity and independence may find themselves in a boardroom culture that pushes them to be deferential and disinclined to challenge the status quo. Reaching consensus may become the goal more than offering input and solutions; consequently, board members known for rationality and agility can become irrational and obstinate.
The good news: board culture doesn’t have to become dysfunctional. Boards can take proactive steps to resolve problems and maintain board effectiveness. But this requires directors to consider some key questions.
Make behavioral questions a greater part of assessment surveys. Assessments should provide insights on how directors individually and collectively contribute to the effectiveness of the board. So revisit the questions being asked in assessments. Consider the question style (open-ended versus closed) and the type (practices versus behavioral).
Set the right tone at the top. Tone from the top starts with the chair/independent lead director. Make it clear that changing course on decisions is welcomed, mistakes are opportunities and respect is based on a collective set of experiences rather than avoidance of missteps.
Test your response to a crisis. Use tabletop exercises that the board would typically conduct — for example, crisis/breach response — and assess not only for alignment to the company’s response plans and processes but for how directors act under pressure.
In the appendix of our guide, we've included an example questionnaire to enhance your next board assessment. While use of this tool will provide helpful information, additional value may be gained by distributing the tool more widely to obtain the views of others (e.g., fellow directors, management and others with whom the board interacts).