Regardless of company size or the level of experience on the board, an issue frequently encountered is the disconnect between senior management and the board. From the perspective of senior management, directors can become “comfortably numb” and not sufficiently engaged.
This is not to say management does not respect board members’ expertise and knowledge. Instead, the executive team can grow disappointed if the board is not operating at its full potential. After long periods of service with little inspiration and challenge from senior management and/or board leadership, directors can reach a point in which they are not as engaged as a highly challenged new director may be.
These directors need to be encouraged to be an influential voice on the board, using their skills and experiences to pose the necessary questions on issues presented at meetings.
But how? As head of NACD’s Board Advisory Services, I’ve observed that honest and thorough director evaluations can help boards identify, address, and bridge the gaps that may develop in effectiveness and engagement. The full board and senior management should perform an honest self-assessment in order to get critical and actionable feedback on their skills, participation, meeting preparations, and any other relevant areas.
Recently, NACD announced its Directorship 2020 initiative, encouraging directors to identify where their board and company should be positioned in the year 2020. Once this vision is established, the board can identify where skills gaps need to be filled in, or what additional efforts should be undertaken. This is particularly relevant–especially with today’s rapidly changing regulatory and technological environment–as boards must quickly meet new rules and changes. Even the most successful boards today need to ask themselves if they are well positioned on the path to 2020.