Imagine you’re approached about a new growth opportunity for your organization. You take it to your board for discussion. How do they react? Do they ask smart questions, discuss a path to assess the opportunity and put a timeline around the decision? Or, do they question the idea to death, delegate it to a committee for extensive review or, worst of all, shut it down outright?
How your board responds to opportunity and new ideas is an excellent measure of their future readiness. And, with the onslaught of baby boomers demanding more, higher quality care than any generation before, new regulations on the horizon and a workforce shortage, being ready for the future has never been more mission critical.
How do you get your board in shape for the road ahead? Here are six detailed steps you should take.
- Regularly assess governance documents to ensure that roles, responsibilities and decision-making authority is clear and current. To ensure board effectiveness, members should be limited to several multiyear terms. A common practice is to limit members to two, three-year terms. Within six years, you’ve typically gotten the maximum value out of any board member.
- Know where you want to go. Vision is magnetic. Having an outside-in strategic plan and vision for where your organization is going will help you attract and retain top board talent.
- Establish board member profiles. Document the technical, leadership and experiential qualities needed in board roles.
- Technical competencies may include human resources, legal, M&A, marketing, finance, fundraising or general management.
- Leadership competencies may span the number and caliber of leadership roles, but it also should include temperament, decision-making style, emotional intelligence and approach to collaboration.
- Experiential competencies may cover experience with your organization or the population it serves, healthcare or other regulated industries, new market entry, service line expansion, succession planning or M&A.
- Build a recruitment pipeline and process. Developing a robust board pipeline takes time and commitment. The effort should be led by the CEO and board president. Common practices include:
- Sharing profiles with board members and leadership team to solicit candidates
- Routinely looking across industries and outside your community for innovative or creative candidates. Companies you admire can be ideal sources.
- Monitor the pipeline. This is not a set-it-and-forget-it thing. Monitor your pipeline quarterly or, at a minimum, annually to ensure a range of candidates to fit your needs
- Promptly interview, assess and address candidates. Nothing ticks a potential candidate or a referral source off more than when there’s a communication breakdown. Try to complete the interview, assess and address process within
45 days of referral. And, communicate the outcome to both the candidate and the referral source.
- Develop, don’t discard, candidates who aren’t quite board ready. Not every candidate you receive is going to be ready to serve on a board. Rather than taking a pass, consider developing the candidate through a committee or a special projects assignment. These efforts deepen engagement, often speeding a candidate to board readiness.
- Fully plan onboarding and embedding new board members. Board members are there to contribute to the organization’s success. Guide them to impact by integrating them onto the board in a thoughtful manner. Onboarding should cover:
- Expectations – While expectations should clearly be stated in the interview process, make sure they are thoroughly understood at onboarding.
- Structures – What are the levels of the board and the organization? How do they work together?
- Strategic Plan – What is the vision of the organization and what is the plan to get there? Where is the organization relative to the current three- to five-year goals?
- Financials – Current and three-year historical financials should be reviewed. The board treasurer and organization CFO should lead this part of the onboarding.
- Mentoring – Great board members are developed. The board president should assume primary responsibility for overall board quality and performance, including mentoring new members.
A strong board is a key indicator of a future-ready organization and will likely be a competitive advantage in an increasingly volatile consumer, regulatory and workforce market. Do yourself a favor and take steps now to strengthen your board… and your organization overall.