The Value, or Cost, of an Entrenched Board

The Value, or Cost, of an Entrenched Board

First Published by CUInsight.com

Long-serving board members have a perspective from their service through many years, and perhaps decades, to an organization to which they volunteered with passion and commitment. I listen in awe to stories told by long-tenured board members of how their credit union started in the kitchen with $200 in the till. The stories of resilience and courage touch the depth of my heart.

Many boards are in conversations about board renewal and board recruitment, with 35% of boards facing the loss of at least three board members in the next three to four years. On the table in many board rooms is the question of whether to have, or not, term limits and how a term-limit decision best serves the membership. The nexus of the term-limit conversation is often in the same context of whether the board is entrenched or high performing and sometimes if a board member is perceived as serving beyond their current capacity to add value.

An entrenched board has long-standing board members who are elected over and over again. The value of an entrenched board is that the long-serving directors have institutional knowledge, and many continue to add value to the organization. However, the following questions may uncover unhealthy symptoms of being or becoming an entrenched board.

  1. What is the balance between long-tenured board members and a fresh perspective that comes with new board members, regardless of age? Some boards have a consummate storyteller who serves as the historian and reminds everyone about how and why the credit union was founded. Pay attention to how much conversation focuses on the rearview mirror versus strategic forward thinking.
  1. What is the appropriate length of service for a board member? A board member adds value when they are engaged, prepared, and continuously learning. When you hear language such as “been there, done that” or “that will never happen,” it is time to move over and make space for a fresh perspective and growth mind-set.
  1. What would be the difference in value to the members with new perspectives in the boardroom? In the Harvard Business Journal, Anderson and Chun (2014) shared research findings on how for-profit companies that replaced three to four board members every three years outperformed their peers. Would the membership experience increase value with a board that rotates three or four board members every three years while losing institutional knowledge? What is the best balance, and how will you know?
  1. How many board members proactively add strategic value to the boardroom? When asked, most CEOs share that they consistently rely on two board members who are fully engaged but wish all board members were proactive.
  1. What happens when a board member receives feedback on being unengaged? Our board assessment research indicates there is a lack of awareness of contribution and value considered entrenched Within a relevant and constructive framework, assessment feedback often materially improves engagement, which is observable through renewed commitment, strategically oriented questions, and enhanced contribution. Notable is a renewed positive energy in the boardroom.
  1. How important is board composition? The degree of board efficacy correlates to board composition and governance. Keep pace with market needs and the representation of member demographics.

Tips for entrenched boards that want to advance to be higher performing:

  1. Constructive disagreement, deliberate dialogue, and the freedom to use your voice to disagree are healthy. Listen to reports and information shared and deliberate with strategic and clarifying questions. Use your voice to constructively disagree and oppose ideas. A board with the capacity and competency for healthy arbitration serves as strategic partner with the CEO.
  1. Is your CEO high performing? How do you know? A heavily entrenched board tends to leave a lower-performing CEO in the role far too long. The performance evaluation process is either nonexistent or perfunctory, without attention to the quality of the process and outcome. A high-performing CEO wants to be paid well above the midpoint and work toward incentives tied to strategic goals.
  1. Challenge group thinking! How conditioned are you to quickly move into agreement? Ask tough questions not just for the sake of being tough. Ask a tough question to challenge thinking and uncover new opportunities. You may agree with the branch expansion or growth strategy, but a speculative question might be valuable in the decision process.
  1. Create your independent learning plan and share it with the board. Advocate for continuous learning and request feedback regarding your value and contribution.
  1. Use intentional focus to guide the board meetings and decision process. Entrenched boards give significant energy to personal relationships and social functions. Personal connection is important, but watch out for the fine line between casualness and objectivity.
  1. Refresh your board agenda. More time should be spent looking forward than digging into operational details for which your CEO is responsible.
  1. What is the role of the board in strategic planning? What are the decision drivers for the board to approve strategies? Exert caution if you are in a rubber stamp approval mode.

The pendulum is moving in the boardroom, with increased complexity and risks to the organization and the requirement for leaders with rigorous practices, relevant expertise and experience, education, and organizational knowledge. Step into the conversation today and ask:

How are we best serving the membership?
How will we know?
Where are our blind spots?
How can we better serve as a board?

A simple and robust self-assessment of how your board is performing and where a wake-up call would be useful might be the next best thing for your board.

Overcoming Failure in Your Career A Model for Acknowledging and Moving Forward

Overcoming Failure in Your Career A Model for Acknowledging and Moving Forward

This blog post is part of the 2016 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted October 14, 2016.

Failure is such a big word and has multiple underpinnings. Stigma, shame, fault, hopeless, disconnection, blame, financial worries, relationship breakdowns, loss of hope, and crushed dreams are a few that come to mind. I’ve had failures in my career, two significantly substantial ones, that forced me into deep reflection and led me to ask myself these questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I offer?
  3. What is my vision of a perfect day?
  4. What kinds of conversations excite me and with what types of people?
  5. How can I and how do I need to add value?

The journey of knowing who I am and who I am becoming began at the age of 16 and deepens at every turn. Someday, I’ll share more of the story of my senior year of high school. Today, however, question 5 is important in this context: “How can I and how do I need to add value?” The foundation of this question is dignity. It is beneficial when we determine how to use our unique leadership presence and expertise to add value for the sake of serving others.

Many of the career failures I hear about in leadership-coaching or recruitment conversations occur due to one or all three of the following reasons: the vision of the role outweighed the ability of the candidate to perform as a leader, the incoming new hire assumed their perspective of culture is your culture and the reality check was left in the parking lot, or there was a serious misread of the candidate’s ability to perform as a leader with competent expertise.

The requirement for leaders to be effective is a strong requisite that can no longer be ignored. Being in that defining moment of failure is a poignant moment in career shaping. Something happened wherein you did not perform to the expectations of others. Take a couple of days to allow yourself to feel the failure in your body, and be sad, disappointed, and maybe angry, all of which are natural emotions related to grieving. If you still have a job, be mindful of your mood in the workplace. If you find yourself without employment, be aware of how your mood impacts your home and family. On the third day, intentionally shift to a generative reflection process.

  1. What did you assume that was not true? How did that happen?
  2. What was your biggest blind spot?
  3. What would you do over?
  4. What did you learn about yourself?
  5. Knowing what you now know, what is your true value proposition?
  6. What conversation do you need to be in and with whom?
  7. What are the circumstances in which you can add the greatest value and retain your dignity?

Notice that none of these questions are directed toward your manager. Yes, it takes two to be in a relationship, and as a leader, this defining moment is your learning moment.

The AIRS Model for Recommitment in Action

  • Courageously acknowledge the issue and demonstrate awareness and appreciation for the breakdown that an important issue exists.
  • Share that you realize the negative impact on the team (project) your actions over a long-term basis.
  • Take responsibility. State your accountability and the contribution for the issue, action, and omission.
  • Provide a solution through recommitment to the project, team, or your development and learning. Identify a problem-solving action and resolve to rebuild trust or withdraw from the commitment with dignity.

The AIRS Model is relevant if you stay on the job or withdraw, voluntarily or involuntarily, to rebuilding trust and dignity, aligning your leadership presence and competence with a need and adding value every day. Be true in your self-assessment, and the path forward will be rich in opportunities to add value in meaningful ways.

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC
DDJ Myers, Ltd.

The Mentee Carries the Responsibility of Success

The Mentee Carries the Responsibility of Success

This blog post is part of the 2016 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted October 12, 2016.

Being in a relationship with a mentor is an honor and encourages feelings of gratitude and appreciation. The mentee has the responsibility of structuring a successful mentoring relationship, making requests of the mentor, acknowledging and receiving the mentor’s offers, and creating intentionality in the outcomes of the relationship.

Before your first conversation with a potential mentor, be prepared to offer your thoughts to the following questions:

  • What is your goal?
  • Over what timeframe?
  • Why is that important?
  • What difference will be noted and by whom?
  • Are you looking for enhanced subject matter expertise, to evolve your leadership presence, or both?

Regardless of whether a mentor makes an offer or you make a request, the outcome of success in the relationship is incumbent on the mentee.

Make Two Lists
1. Assess your environment and make a list of masterful people in the domain in which you want to become an expert, such as finance, balance sheet management, liquidity management, cyber security, or branding.

2. The second list includes individuals who have a certain quality of presence that you find appealing. How do you describe their presence? When they speak, why do others listen? When you are in their presence, what do you notice about yourself?

In creating your list of potential mentors, be sure to do a 360 and include peers and direct reports to you or your peers. Look up and over and down and over on the organization chart; a senior leader in another functional area may be well suited as a mentor, as might be a direct report to a current peer.

It is possible that the people on the two lists are not the same, and that’s okay! It is perfectly plausible that a subject matter expert is not the best to mentor on quality of presence and vice versa. 

Make the Request
Approach a potential mentor with a powerful request, including your specific needs and expectations in the relationship, including length of time. Describe your level of commitment, how you will now you are growing as a mentee, and why this particular mentor is important in your career path.

The most important component of the relationship is that you are sincere in creating, agreeing to, and fulfilling your relationship as a mentee. In a positive learning situation, there is a teacher and a student. The student accepts the teacher, follows his or her guidance, and acknowledges the teachers’ mastery through thoughts, words, and actions as a learner. The mentor will be appropriately challenging, and the mentee should not quit the moment the relationship requires unfamiliar rigor. Only through doing something new does learning happen.

Declare Completion
There comes a day when you feel complete with the mentor as a teacher. Perhaps you need time for the learning to soak in; you should thus ask for a pause in the relationship with the possibility of returning for a check in later.

Express Gratitude
This article began by describing the mentor-mentee relationship as one of gratitude and appreciation. Honor your mentor through expressing appreciation for his or her attributes and becoming a mentor to others. In the fall of 2000, I met someone with a compelling presence as a teacher, coach, and mentor. His name was Richard Strozzi-Heckler, PhD. I studied with him for ten years and asked him to be my external reader for my dissertation. I still hear his voice every day in my professional and community work, as a parent, and in relationships. Although he is not my day-to-day mentor, he is my life teacher. Thank you, Richard.

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC
DDJ Myers, Ltd.

How to Make Your Work Place More Desirable

How to Make Your Work Place More Desirable

This blog post is part of the 2016 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted October 10, 2016.

Going to work five days a week is a major commitment of time and energy. From the first moment you roll out of bed and your feet land on the floor to opening the door to your home at night, it is easily a time commitment of ten hours or more. I have the opportunity to hear stories from many people about their life at work and will share practices that work for others and a few that work for me.

Mood: Check your mood a few times a day. Do you look forward to your team meeting? Are you anticipatory about designing a new product, anxious about a tough conversation, feeling trapped, or delighted with your promotion? Having more days in which you feel trapped, stressed, or unsafe versus moods of engagement, learning, and contributing are a big clue that your mood or something else needs to change.

Be present: The polarity of being at home versus work wears the best of us out over time. If you are at work and worrying about home or at home worrying about work, you can become frazzled or fractured. Be present where you are and acknowledge your commitments in other parts of your life. Most importantly, when home with your family, be present. Leave the laptop at the office and instead, play with the kids, walk the dog, and converse with your partner and friends.

Make a difference: How you spend your precious time away from home needs to connect adding value and making a difference to coworkers, members, consumers, or the community. Understand your unique value, and you will make a difference.

Engage: Look for and step into opportunities to engage and make offers. Invite someone to coffee, go out to lunch with coworkers, chat with someone new in the organization, use your voice in meetings, and offer to help others move forward.

Smile: One benefit of my early morning runs on the canal is the smiles I give and receive from others. People who are out in the morning moving their bodies easily say “good morning,” accompanied by a smile. Take that practice to work and smiles at someone in the hallway, walking into a meeting, or on the other end of the phone who can’t even see you. It doesn’t cost anything and has many benefits!

Was this a day well lived?

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC
DDJ Myers, Ltd.

To Compel Others to Follow Your Leadership, First Be Compelling

To Compel Others to Follow Your Leadership, First Be Compelling

This blog post is part of the 2016 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted September 14, 2016.

Everyone has the potential and capacity to be leaders in all their roles in life: at home, in the community, and at work. A leader with a centered presence thinks and acts effectively in a variety of circumstances and challenges. A centered leader acts more decisively, collaborates with others to achieve goals, and has a wide range of communication practices, such as deep listening and speaking from the heart to the issues and concerns of his or her listeners.

The Self that you are is your fundamental power as a leader. How you present yourself in your relationships and connections with others is a direct reflection of who you are as a person. Forward-leaning people have those same distinctions in how they orient themselves in conversation and action.  They may rush into problem solving and miss important details or lack self-care. People who lean back and away have those same distinctions in their orientations. These distinctions are much more than body language; they are your leadership presence, your centered presence that compels, motivates, and mobilizes others into action.

A centered leader has a centered, well-grounded body with shoulders over hips, knees, and ankles and is connected to a purpose united with a greater good in mind. Your Self from within, as a compelling leader, is integrous with your external self: how you comport yourself in your conversations and actions using your gifts and talents and aligning with your passion and commitment.

The Next Top Credit Union Exec (NTCUE) has a strong sense of Self. The NTCUE acknowledges and honors their gifts and talents and aligns them with purposeful action every day. The NTCUE creates a project that showcases their passion, gifts, and talents in a purposeful and intentional fashion. The NTCUE accesses wisdom and makes the right and often harder choice. The NTCUE is vulnerable and compassionate and acts with courage in the face of obstacles. The NTCUE shares the concerns of others yet, at the same time, honors their own concerns. The NTCUE takes a stand for dignity and takes appropriate action to fulfill promises. The NTCUE makes powerful requests of others for support and makes meaningful offers to others.

To be a compelling leader, you must first be compelling to yourself and honor your gifts, talents, and passion for what is important in life. To be compelling requires being passionate and practicing being a centered and grounded presence.

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC
DDJ Myers, Ltd.