It’s a Board Choice: High Performing or Not?

It’s a Board Choice: High Performing or Not?

If you don’t choose high performance, circumstances may eventually force your hand.

By Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC

directors sitting around a board table with thought and quote clouds around themA high-performing organization is directly connected to a high-performing board. So how can you know which type of board yours has chosen to be?

A high performing board is obvious because the room is vibrant, the organization’s performance is strong, and the board and CEO have a viable leadership relationship. Unfortunately, high-performing boards are a minority, as most boards could be described as “entrenched.” (For more on the five personalities of boards, including entrenched and high performing, read my “Know Your Rubber Band” post, also on CUES Skybox.)

When a CEO is asked about the quality of the board of directors, the answer is spontaneous and open when the board is high performing. The CEO’s face brightens, and he or she smiles while expressing three to four of the board’s best attributes.

Read the statements below: How many apply to your board? If I missed some attributes, write them in the comment box at the end of the blog. Let’s share what we see as high performance for all our boards.

  • makes a difference in challenging assumptions;
  • adds tremendous strategic value;
  • offers useful perspectives;
  • comes prepared, knows the board packet, and has outlined questions;
  • keeps the conversation at a strategic level;
  • performs specific value-added acts;
  • spends time on the most important issues, such as succession planning and strategic planning, risk oversight and financial oversight;
  • adopts a mantra of continuous improvement;
  • delegates operations to the CEO;
  • self-monitors members’ roles, responsibilities, and actions;
  • holds open and vibrant board meetings;
  • allows each board member to express his/her voice in a strategically oriented conversation;
  • aligns the organization’s culture with the culture in the boardroom; and
  • steers the organization toward positive performance.

When I work with boards, the best way to start on the path to high performance is creating a vision that everyone in the room will actively support. What does the board need to look like in the future? What competencies are required to add sustainable value to the organization? What competencies do we currently have in the boardroom? What is our commitment to sustainable development? What does sustainable really mean? Questions of this magnitude are important to ask and facilitate alignment; the answers create the foundation for a high-performing board.

Time is an impediment to adopting effective practices. However, if we don’t commit the time and effort today, the chance of increased enterprise risk is greater in the future. Said another way, if you do not commit and starting moving toward a high performing board today, a breakdown in the future will force you onto the path of more effective leadership.

The choice is yours.

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC, is CEO of CUES Supplier member and strategic providerDDJ Myers, Ltd., Phoenix. Learn more about DDJ Myers’ offerings with CUES.

 Help bring your board along the performance curve by sending a few directors–or the whole crew–to CUES Director Development Seminar, slated for Sept. 16-28 in Savannah, Ga. Earlier the same week in Savannah: Director Risk and Compliance Seminar, Sept. 14-15.

Myers will be among the executive coaches working with attendees at CEO/Executive Team Network this November. Encourage your CEO to go!

Published originally on CUES Skybox, August 31, 2015.


Know Your Rubber Band

Know Your Rubber Band

What’s holding your board back from becoming high performing?

By Deedee Myers, Ph.D.

green rubber bandChange of any type creates tension between what is and what wants to be. Change is like the tension in a rubber band. The way your board operates today is familiar, and yet a board may often discuss the need to change—and to become a high-performing board—yet still not take steps in that direction. Why?

Ray Davis, CEO of Umpqua Bank, wrote: “I believe that each of us has a rubber band with one end attached to our back side and the other nailed firmly to the wall of tradition. Even when we want to change, and do change, we tend to relax and the rubber band snaps us back into our comfort zone.”

Understanding your board’s conditioned tendencies–what Davis terms “the comfort zone”–is a major step toward change. When we help boards make transformative change toward being high- or higher-performing boards, a key first step is for every director to know what style the board has now.

We have developed an easy survey form, based on the work of Beverly Behan, that we use to help boards consider their current style of governing:

  1. A hostile board typically has a highly dysfunctional relationship with the CEO. Both parties are guarded about information sharing and, when information is shared, there is a high degree of deflection and resistance. Every conversation includes a tone of disrespect and distrust. It is a matter of time before the CEO disengages while on the job, resigns or is asked to leave. Unfortunately, the next CEO will inherit the same hostile board. Changing a hostile board often requires intervention, a code of conduct, consequences for misbehavior, and one or two most hostile board members gracefully resigning.
  1. An imperial board was the norm in the 1990s and may be present in some credit unions with long tenured CEOs and board members. The CEO has extreme influence on board decisions, selection of new board members, governance, and issues of consequence. Not atypical is a triumvirate of leadership, the CEO with two board members making most of the decisions. Strategic planning sessions focus on social activities, while the CEO presents the credit union’s next strategic direction without much dialogue and, in many cases, a full board approval.
  1. The entrenched board has minimal strategic dialogue with the executive team. Governance policies are often well-written, yet may not help the board see marketplace shifts in the making. The entrenched board takes steps to be a high-performing board, but has not adopted key practices of generative dialogue—about who or what the credit union should be—as do high-performing boards.
  1. The independent board is a newer board personality type that evolved primarily due to regulatory pressures. Independent boards are moving toward being high-performing boards by having an independent process to nominate and recruit board members rather than relying on the CEO for this. An executive committee regularly meets without the CEO present. Board members have a high degree of commitment to their responsibilities and want to have an identity of following good board practices.

The aforementioned board personality descriptors can be combined. For example, I often see both entrenched and hostile traits in a board. I suggest these descriptors be used primarily as a guideline for conversation on what identity your board has now and what identity it would like to have in the future.

Talking about board style and personality often requires robust and difficult conversations that result in developing a satisfying and rewarding statement of commitment to change the board for the better. Once the board agrees on the commitment statement, it articulates its vision of how it wants to be. For example, do directors want to be seen as having robust dialogue, learning, and consistently fulfilling their roles and responsibilities? Or are they comfortable with the status quo?

Published originally on CUES Skybox Blog, August 3, 2015.

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., is CEO of CUES Supplier member and strategic provider DDJ Myers, Ltd., Phoenix. Learn more about DDJ Myers’ offerings with CUES.

Deedee Myers will present a free CUES webinar about board personality styles at 1 p.m. Central time on Aug. 26.

 Help bring your board along the performance curve by sending a few directors–or the whole crew–to CUES Director Development Seminar, slated for Sept. 16-28 in Savannah, Ga. Earlier the same week in Savannah: Director Risk and Compliance Seminar, Sept. 14-15.

Myers will be among the executive coaches working with attendees at CEO/Executive Team Network this November. Encourage your CEO to go!

No More Pop Psychology – Professionals Need Coaches!

No More Pop Psychology – Professionals Need Coaches!

Amateurs do not!

Professional coaching is a relatively new profession in the United States and in many other countries. The profession fulfills a need for fresh perspectives, enhanced decision making, progressive interpersonal effectiveness, increased emotional intelligence, and leadership presence. Clients who work with a professional coach can expect appreciable improvement in productivity, collaboration, communication, and attainment of relevant goals.

There are many reasons to use an external professional coach, including to improve:

  • CEO readiness
  • Board chair leadership
  • CEO effectiveness
  • Executive and management leadership
  • Goal productivity
  • Work performance
  • Work relationships
  • Business management
  • Time management
  • Life/work choices
  • Team effectiveness
  • Cross-functional collaboration
  • Ease of strategic initiative implementation
  • Self-efficacy, self-confidence
  • Organizational learning
  • Interpersonal relationships

Professional Coaching vs. Pop Psychology and Therapy

An important distinction of professional coaching is that it is nonclinical and nonlinear. Therapy focuses on historical issues and episodes that may still need healing. Professional coaching, on the other hand, happens when a certified coach partners with clients in thought-provoking and creative processes that serve as catalysts to facilitate experiential learning that results in relevant future-oriented capacities and abilities. The coach–client relationship is collaborative and egalitarian, focusing on constructing solutions, goal attainment processes, and new practices.

Another important distinction of professional coaching is the difference between evidenced-based coaching and the “pop psychology” of the personal development genre. Evidence-based research translates data into positive outcomes using the best current knowledge integrated with practitioner expertise in making decisions on how to deliver coaching to clients as well as in designing and teaching in-house leadership development programs.

Many certified coaches invest the equivalent of a master’s degree or PhD to learn the human development theory applied in coaching. In fact, many coaches already have a masters’ degree and several years of professional experience in a senior leadership role before certification. The advantage here is that they have a long track record of success before printing a business card for coaching.

This level of in-depth expertise, education, and experience is necessary because the aim of executive and professional coaching is sustained cognitive, emotional, and behavioral changes. These sustained changes facilitate goal attainment, performance enhancement, and an overall increased capacity for sense of self.

Internal vs. External Coaching

Some organizations have internal organization coaches; others require all leaders to be coaches. As a result, the blur between mentors and coaches can become ambiguous. Often, managers who coach do so as part of their functional role; this is distinguished from developing the human potential in creating success. Complex organizations with intricate change merit hiring an in-house coach to facilitate improved cross-functional relationships. The internal coach needs to be exemplary in building and maintaining the trust and confidence of a multitude of diverse constituents. You can ease into a full-time person by contracting with a coach for three to five days or more per month.

External coaches may or may not need domain-specific expertise. Highly professional coaches can coach in any domain. However, we find our specific expertise in finance and health care at DDJ Myers helps facilitate success with clients and supports them in strategic goal setting and implementation.

Certified or Not?!?

Professionals entering retirement or looking for something different to earn income might hang a sign or print a business card with the title Coach. Former executives are used to leading from in front and often do not have the theoretical human development knowledge a coach certification process offers. Telling someone what to do has a vastly different outcome than facilitating a sustainable, and often transformative, learning experience.

I strongly recommend the International Coaching Federation (ICF) has acknowledged your selected coach. All you have to do is ask: “Are you ICF certified? What level?” ICF acknowledges coaches who have been certified by approved, credentialed institutes or universities. The standard for our team of ten coaches is one to three ICF-credentialed certifications, and 80% of our team has at least two certifications with ICF approval.

What to Do?

If you are a manger or executive with career aspirations and want to enhance your leadership presence and emotional intelligence, pick up the phone and talk with a coach. Our clients tell us their emotional intelligence scores go up by 20 points within 6 months of rigorous coaching; their performance reviews are more positive; and they feel more fulfilled and on purpose at work.

So, give us a call (800) 574-8877 to explore the possibilities. We are happy to recommend a coach near you!

It’s a Board Choice: High Performing or Not?

Humility, Competence, and Experience

This blog post is part of the 2015 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted August 2015.

My three younger boys are in Boy Scouts. They have a plan for the scout badges they earn and how to apply those badges in daily life. Recently, they learned CPR and how to safely start a campfire. Our dinner topics include conversations on how to apply all of what they are learning to who they are becoming as 11-year-olds and how to connect the dots between today’s experiences and their unfolding personal lives.

Today’s leaders have many learning challenges that are not singular episodic events. Once learned, then done—not really! We earn a “badge” (recognition, acknowledgment) because of a developed level of competence in a knowledge area. Blending the knowledge from multiple badges and diverse applications is the growing challenge in complex environments. Three badges are on my mind recently: the badges of humility, competence, and experience.

The badge of humility: this badge is unique because it is antecedent to effective socialized leadership. Credit-union leadership is a form of socialized leadership. A socialized leader is self-effacing with stimulation, suggestion, and inspiration. A sense of self is required in a multitude of diverse contexts in order to prevent excessive self-focus. Simply put, the humble leader

  • realizes that no one has all the answers
  • creates space for others to contribute
  • asks for and accepts generative feedback
  • admits mistakes and recommits
  • empowers others to learn and develop
  • enacts courage
  • takes personal risks for the greater good
  • holds employees responsible for results
  • creates space for innovative behavior
  • engages in team citizenship
  • goes beyond the call of duty

The badge of competence: Leaders today are challenged with moving beyond a single functional competency set. To effectively lead in the future, each one of us needs a range of competencies in multidisciplinary functions. A sufficient level of knowledge and skills is necessary to be able to ask powerful questions, coach employees to be high performers, and collaborate cross-functionally. This does not mean you have to run an asset/liability model, fund loans, be an expert in governance, know how to program, and more. What it does mean is that you need to have a working knowledge of how the most critical functions in the organization support and need each other for overall success. It means productively using and generatively blending multiple knowledge areas.

The badge of experience: Simply put, your experience is the sum of all that you practice. If you practice showing up every day to just do your job, that is most likely working for you. If you show up every day to do your job with a high level of commitment and engagement, continually learning and developing others, then you are practicing humility and gaining increased competence and experience. What are you practicing?

As you walk into work everyday, challenge yourself to keep learning and practicing the badges you have earned, because every day is different, and a higher level of practice is needed as you engage and interact with multiple perspectives.

Deedee Myers, PhD

How To Approach The CEO Search

How To Approach The CEO Search


A credit union’s board of directors is charged with many things, perhaps none more important than hiring and replacing its president and chief executive officer. Should the board look at internal candidates? Should it look outside the credit union’s walls? Or both? Should the board approach the search differently if it wants to turn things around as opposed to staying the course?

Read more:

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