The Critical Mindset of the Board Member

The Critical Mindset of the Board Member

How you can add consistent value by using critical thinking

Speech is the primary mode of communication in the boardroom. It is extremely important for board members to be able to articulate their thoughts and opinions in a thoughtful and articulate manner. So, would it surprise you if I said that a big component of boardroom communication is knowing when to be silent?

The process of thinking before speaking impacts the quality of the board’s discussion. If we speak without thinking about the concepts and principles of the subject, we may produce an impression that we want to derail the conversation, consciously or unconsciously. When we study and assess what we think about the subject, the quality of our conversation will be focused, relevant and result in more informed board decisions.

Prepare for the Board Meeting: Internalize First

The board packet provides updates to strategic initiatives, financial status and other essential items. Board members should receive this at least a week in advance of each meeting. The care (or lack thereof) with which each board member reviews the board packet and prepares for the meeting can add to or detract from the quality of relationships within the board, the outcome of the board meeting and, ultimately, the performance of the organization.

Valued board members understand they must evaluate their thinking. There are two pieces to consider about thinking. First, a person must think in an educated manner. To do this, board members should research and attempt to understand the topics they will be discussing. Second, the person must be skilled in evaluating his or her thinking. Board members should reflect on and understand their thoughts or opinions on the concepts to be discussed. Prior to the board meeting, directors should spend adequate time educating themselves on the topics they are uncertain about and begin to form an opinion, but also consider alternate points of view.

Someone with a critical thinking mindset examines the facts they know, educates themselves when gaps in their understanding appear, and attempts an unbiased analysis of the information, all in a rational, clear-headed manner.

The reason this is so important is because the board is responsible for making decisions that affect the future of the organization. Responsible board members will understand their obligation to carefully study and think critically for the sake of the best results.

When each board member commits to this preparation and introspection, it leads to more successful board meetings, better decision-making and stronger outcomes for the organization.

Further, when board members evaluate their embedded thinking patterns with an open mind, they can move from a fixed and entrenched mindset to a developing and generative mindset.

Provide Value: Reflect and Question

The value of the board as an entity directly correlates with the value contributed by each board member. Board governance that permits one or two board members to provide less value than needed is shortchanging the membership. To that end, each board member must engage in activities that require active thinking regarding the concepts and principles related to the board’s discussions. All board members are encouraged to engage in learning activities on their own or within the group to enhance their quality of critical thinking.

When we are too committed to our preconceived opinions and thoughts on a matter, we rob ourselves of the chance for reflective and speculative conversations and, ultimately, to add vast benefits for our membership. If we are not regularly engaging in the reflective and speculative components of critical thinking, we are, in essence, robbing our members.

Practice Critical Thinking: 7 Behaviors to Stretch Your Mindset

Are you a critical thinker? What are your critical thinking practices? If you are not sure, consider this list.

A critical thinker on the board:

  1. raises meaningful questions and articulates them with clarity and preciseness;
  2. accesses, then assesses relevant information;
  3. articulates abstract ideas to connect the dots;
  4. communicates well-reasoned and grounded suggestions and conclusions;
  5. continues to test those conclusions against standards, new information and important criteria;
  6. recognizes and challenges their assumptions in complex situations; and
  7. engages with others in an open dialogue to find solutions.

It is important to know that critical thinking can be learned; it is self-directed and requires self-discipline, uncompromising standards, and conscious and deliberate practice and application. Critical thinking blended with effective communication, relevant expertise and vital commitment to the purpose of the board produces a constructive partnership amongst board members as well as between the board and CEO.

Deedee Myers, PhD, MSC, PCC, CHIC, is CEO of CUES strategic provider DDJ Myers, Phoenix. If your board wants to improve its critical thinking as part of higher quality governance, reach out to DDJ Myers Ltd. at 800.574.8877. Myers referred to these resources in putting together this article: Paul, Richard and Elder, Linda: Critical Thinking, 2008; Reid, Thomas: Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, 1785; and Trower, Cathy: The Practitioners Guide to Governance as Leadership, 2013. 

42nd CU Leadership Convention – Las Vegas

42nd CU Leadership Convention – Las Vegas

Bullying or Be Humble and Kind

Bullying or Be Humble and Kind

Last Tuesday I was driving to the airport to have lunch with two of my sons when this Tim McGraw song called Humble and Kind came on the radio. Normally I play music in the background, but I was compelled to listen to McGraw’s lyrics, and they were timely.

Early that same morning I had an executive coaching call, and the client was in tears. She said her manager and peers were bullying her about her perspective on diversity. We worked through the challenge, and she left the call recentered with a declaration on how to move forward with dignity in interactions with her manager and coworkers.

After I completed the call, my heart was troubled because there is bullying in my children’s’ schools, the workplace, in the news, and even on airplanes. It is important to me to guide and support children so they are kind; likewise it is equally important to me to help leaders create engaged, supportive, and equitable work cultures. In my deeply reflective space, I had questions: Where do we unintentionally bully? When are we so resolute in our perspective that we come across as a bully in the boardroom, team meeting, or performance review? Do we come across as a bully when we don’t get our way at work? How are we creating dignity for ourselves and others?

There is a fine line between being a bully and being kind. McGraw says:

“Hold the door say please say thank you

Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie

I know you got mountains to climb but

Always stay humble and kind

When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you

When the work you put in is realized

Let yourself feel the pride but

Always stay humble and kind…

Bitterness keeps you from flying

Always stay humble and kind”

The Workplace Bullying Institute reports that 72% of workplace bullies are bosses. Bullying in the workplace creates a hostile work environment, which is not helpful for a sustainable organization. I borrowed this list of workplace examples of bullying from The Balance.*

● Denying an employee access to resources, assignments, projects, or opportunities

● Little or no feedback on performance

● Withholding information essential to performing one’s job

● Failing to invite someone to an essential meeting

● Threatening job loss

● Excessive monitoring or micromanagement

● Assigning tasks that cannot be completed by deadline and setting unrealistic and impossible goals

● Interference or sabotage

● Treating a worker differently than peers and coworkers are treated

● Excessive, impossible, conflicting work expectations or demands

● Inequitable and harsh treatment

● Invalid or baseless criticism, faultfinding, and unwarranted blame

● Accusatory or threatening statements

● Humiliation, public reprimands, or obscene language

*https://www.thebalance.com/types-of-bullying-2164322

I hope this blog helps each of us increase our sensitivity to workplace bullying, support corrective action, and be humble and kind.

 

Deedee Myers

Founder/CEO
DDJ Myers

 

Game Changer Competencies Make Progressive Boards

Game Changer Competencies Make Progressive Boards

Boards across the industry realize that the levels of engagement and competencies of the past will not satisfy the future needs of the organization. The change they are seeking will not be satisfied with just a new assessment, tool, or technique; the change requires a systemic and sustainable process that is sometimes transformative. A new mindset is required regarding how boards frame issues, challenges, and opportunities; engage and stay in dialogue; and build a relationship with the chief executive officer (CEO).

Progressive boards engage in dignified and lively debates on central and critical issues, staying away from the tangential and inconsequential.  High-performing boards require input and strategically oriented questions from each board member, whereas recent research suggests that 50-70% of directors prefer just to listen, and only 11% willingly engage in dialogue.  The newly evolved board agenda and packet is designed to stimulate higher-level thinking while keeping a watchful eye on important metrics of safety.

The board-CEO relationship is a generative partnership, often called constructive and collaborative.  The key word is partnership rather than just one party establishing the vision and strategy and passing it to the other party to inform and/or implement.  Both parties co-create the vision and agree on the path to success and conditions of successful stewardship of the membership.

Members of a generative partnership will step forward and backward, step on each other’s toes in a dance of leadership, and learn while moving forward.  Two-way feedback between the CEO and the board is constructive, direct with dignity, and focused on the intention of effective leadership.  Progressive boards practice epoche, stepping outside of their perspective to deeply listen to others’ points of view and then courageously make and implement the right decision.  Tough decisions are made and then mutually supported by all to the external community, membership, and staff.  

Progressive boards can self-manage rather than being a time sink for management, checking their e-mail and digital devices in a meeting rather than deeply listening to what is important and how they need to add value.  A progressive board easily reflects, to those outside the boardroom, the current and target membership demographic.  Members join boards because they have value to offer and their opinions are needed; progressive boards effectively engage each director and the collective group, utilizing the skills and expertise of each board member rather than hearing just one or two dominant voices.

Progressive boards have optimal structures including ideal composition and committee structure.  The board understands and acts on board member duties, including board and CEO succession.  Each committee has a purpose and outlined conditions of success.  A clear distinction exists between decision-making lines between the board and the CEO, and the progressive board self-manages when any member steps over the line into the domain of the CEO’s responsibility.

Progressive boards enhance the nominating committee to include board development, board succession, and rich and robust onboarding.  No longer can any board member say, “I am the newest and defer to others.”  Progressive boards insist on new members adding value on day one and provide the support mechanisms for an onboard program such as board buddies, post-meeting check-ins with the chair, and learning plans.

Think about the progressiveness of your board.  How is it progressive?  How should it be more high-performing?  What needs to shift in your boardroom to ask higher-level questions that get the heart pumping of everyone in the room?  How is complacency of even one board member serving the membership?  What will awaken your board to be rigorous, strategic, and keep pace with your high-performing CEO?

Our board development, succession, and recruitment process enlivens the boardroom and ensures that the best available talent is retained, recruited, and onboarded.

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