Board service can be a great opportunity to step away from your day-to-day business role and hone your ability to see an organisation as an entire entity, not only the functional areas you’ve managed in the past. It also exposes you to more diverse challenges and issues that companies have to face. For example, you might have to make tough decisions that have a negative impact on people, like deciding to cut redundancies or closing branches. These scenarios teach you to think clearly and not be swayed either by your own feelings or the feelings of your colleagues.
Another question that is often raised is how to ensure a broad range of voices are heard during deliberations and during the decision-making process. Boards employ a variety methods to accomplish this. For example, some boards encourage directors to play devil’s advocate at meetings and others use a whiteboard approach to brainstorm and ‘spitball’ possible solutions before making a decision. This helps to separate the decision-making process from the personalities of people and helps avoid groupthink.
Boards can be more effective if they are willing to question long-standing practices. For instance, a large number of board members are reviewing their committee structures. They are unsure if they fulfill their purpose and are a viable method of running meetings. They are looking for new methods of identifying trends and insights that can be hidden within data and digital tools.