Category: Director Education

NACD Introduces New Director Credential and Recognizes Its First Class of Board Leadership Fellows

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In today’s complex business world, there’s a growing need for well-rounded directors who stay informed on emerging issues and leading practices. Unlike doctors and lawyers, directors do not have a formal certification program. They must find resources, mentors and peers on their own to help them stay up to speed.

The need for this kind of peer-to-peer director education led the National Association of Corporate Directors to create a specialized course of study, the NACD Board Leadership Program. NACD’s new director credential enables directors to not only demonstrate their dedication and commitment to boardroom excellence, but also to showcase the highest standards of director professionalism and anticipate the unknown by learning from experienced, world-class board leaders.

To become an NACD Board Leadership Fellow, participants must be experienced company directors, complete The Master Class and then complete at least 10 more credits of NACD education within 12 months. Participants are required to take a number of formal, skill-specific learning electives to hone their committee skills, keep their knowledge of board function and purpose up-to-date, and prepare them to offer a 360-degree vision to shareowners, companies and their board colleagues.

After completion of the program, fellows must complete at least 10 credits of NACD director education every year to maintain their status as NACD Board Leadership Fellows.

The first 16 NACD Board Leadership Fellows were recognized at a dinner in New York City in May. Collectively, this elite group represents boards of more than 60 companies and provides a snapshot of the caliber of directors engaged in continuous learning with America’s premier membership organization for board members:

“As a director in today’s rapidly changing corporate environment, board leadership requires keeping current, fresh and, above all, relevant,” said Michael Pocalyko, one of the new NACD Board Leadership Fellows. “NACD events are among the only places where I can speak with my peers frankly, confidentially and unimpeded. By participating in the full range of NACD director education and becoming a Board Leadership Fellow, I get early intelligence on emerging issues—so my boards can engage these issues as opportunities instead of reacting to them as challenges. These advantages not only ground me as a director, but ultimately benefit the companies and the shareholders I serve.”

Directors who are interested in becoming an NACD Board Leadership Fellow can contact NACD’s registrar at 202-572-2088 or email Fellowships@NACDonline.org.

For information about the NACD Board Leadership Fellowship program, please visit http://www.nacdonline.org/Education/content.cfm?ItemNumber=3577&navItemNumber=3704.

Problem-Finding: A Vital Board Skill

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Solange Charas is the president of Charas Consulting, Inc. and a senior-level human capital professional with 20-plus years of experience as corporate CHRO and consulting firm practice director. She is currently pursuing her doctor of management at Case Western Reserve. She has served as the chair of the remuneration committee for a NASDAQ-traded company.

Michael Roberto, author of Know What You Don’t Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen, shared his insights with the 200 directors who attended last week’s NACD Directorship Forum in NYC. He explained why it makes more sense to concentrate on “problem- finding” than “problem-solving.” Practicing problem-finding helps leaders spot and address emerging concerns while they are still manageable and before they turn into disasters. It is a vital board skill.

Roberto opened his talk with examples from the Cuban Missile Crisis and recounted his conversations with Robert McNamara about that perilous time. He also gave examples from the 2003 NASA shuttle failure from his interviews with then Space Shuttle program manager, Linda Ham. Using these two examples he illustrated the fundamental value of actively seeking out problems before they find you.

I think his presentation had the attention of the audience—there was something seductively compelling about the idea of using proactive techniques to anticipate and avoid dangerous problems. Yet, despite our intellectual agreement that being proactive is always more effective than being inactive or reactive, what’s the trick? How do we set about successful problem-finding?

Roberto offered these seven steps to becoming a proactive problem-finder instead of a reactive problem-solver:

  1. Circumvent the gatekeepers – get unfiltered information.
  2. Become an ethnographer – watch what your constituents are doing and stay alert to what’s happening in the periphery. Watch for “Hirschman’s exit” or “voice” phenomena;
  3. Hunt for patterns – try to draw on past experiences but don’t get caught in the trap of misusing analogies.
  4. Use intuition to “connect the dots;” lessons learned from small problems can contribute to understanding the path of large problems.
  5. Encourage innovative thinking and risk-taking on a small scale – piloting programs and experimenting may be the key to learning. “Fail often, succeed sooner.”
  6. “Watch the film” – what is your team and the competition doing? “Adopt the military’s “After Action Review” (AAR) process to learn and improve;
  7. Create a climate of information-sharing – encourage people to speak up and have a mindset of “openness.”

In my opinion, our shareholders and stakeholders expect us board members to do our best to steward the organization. To do that, we need to listen to our inner dialogue to understand what can inhibit our participation in important activities. What can cause us to abdicate our leadership role? Is it fear that we may be viewed as pariahs and shunned if we voice a dissenting opinion?  Do we feel safer if we ignore an issue? Like the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, do we believe that if we can’t see the problem, then it can’t see us? Or do we assume that someone else will tell us about the problem when it get big enough? All perilous pitfalls—which might be avoided by practicing problem-finding.

Read more about the NACD Directorship Forum here and here.

To reserve your seat for the NACD D100 Forum, November 8-9 at the Waldorf Astoria, NYC. Sign up to learn from Jet Blue director General (rtd) Stanley McChrystal, Polymer Group CEO Ronee Hagen and HealthSouth CEO Jay Grinney among others, and be our guest at the gala dinner celebrating the NACD D100 and Director of the Year honorees.

The Promise and Risk of Information and Technology at NACD Directorship Forum

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Solange Charas is the president of Charas Consulting, Inc. and a senior-level human capital professional with 20-plus years of experience as corporate CHRO and consulting firm practice director. She is currently pursuing her doctor of management at Case Western Reserve. She has served as the chair of the remuneration committee for a NASDAQ-traded company.

One of the benefits of attending NACD events is the opportunity to learn from directors and executives of big-name boards. The NACD Directorship Forum held May 23-24 did not disappoint: sessions on shockproofing the board, learning from the financial crisis and finding the best leadership model for your board and company were led by board members and C-suite leaders from companies including Jet Blue, GM, Ford, AIG and Best Buy.

The session I thought most interesting from both a content and “sociological” perspective concerned the promise and risk of information and technology. I am a “device diva”—a real technology junkie—so the topic was fascinating to me and it seemed to engage the 200 or so directors in the room. The panel represented some of the best thinking in the hi-tech and communications industries, with professionals from Oracle and Levick Strategic Communications sharing interesting technology “tales.”

                                                                How familiar are you with the concept of cloud computing?

Panelists discussed cloud technology, alternatives to large-scale capital investments, security, and e-discovery. Then the talk turned to “social media.” Richard Levick asked directors to consider “who are your bloggers, tweeters and Facebook friends” resulting in participants looking at one another with raised eyebrows. Examples of Bank of America’s inadequate response to the threat of negative information disclosed by WikiLeaks and Taco Bell’s deft response to the “where’s the beef” scandal illustrated the power of social media—as opposed to traditional channels—in shaping public opinion.

Leave nothing to chance

The third and perhaps most interesting aspect of this session was the dynamic of the panelists— there was actual dissention!  The give-and-take, with each expert expressing his and her own perspective on the topics, resulted in a robust dialogue. Contrasting the other panels where there were polite “I agree with….” and “John makes a good point…” these panelists didn’t mince words and had the courage to express their dissenting opinions.   

What a treat for the audience to observe a healthy dynamic where collegiality is NOT confused with congeniality. This rich dialogue offered value to the audience—not only in content, but as a model to directors that healthy dialogue generates better outcomes. As Sydney Finkelstein and Ann C. Mooney (2003) stated in an article published in Academy of Management, the number one goal for directors is to “engage in constructive conflict,”—meaning that directors should express their diverse views. When this happens the exchange of ideas “help the board better understand issues surrounding the decision context and synthesize multiple points of view into a decision that is often superior to any individual perspective.”  

This is something for directors to think about, especially those on nominating committees. Diversity isn’t just about skin color, gender or nationality. It is about selecting directors who will promote diverse ideas and have the courage to express those ideas to generate rich and constructive dialogue. When collegiality is confused with congeniality, your board and the quality and effectiveness of the cognitive product of the board is compromised.

Read more blog posts from Solange here

To register for the NACD D100 Forum, November 8-9 at the Waldorf Astoria, NYC click here.