Where you stand, and where (and how) you sit

Published by

Two initial disclaimers:

  1. I know almost nothing about “feng shui”, the ancient Chinese system intended to ensure that buildings and objects are properly placed and oriented.
  2. I can barely understand the full name of the newly-published scientific article, “Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions”, on which this comment is based (but it sure got me thinking about how to get the best results from the vast amounts of time Directors and others spend in meetings).

Three researchers (one each from Harvard, MIT and Yale) found that our sense of “touch” or “feel” clearly influences our decisions, even when those decisions have absolutely nothing to do with touching or feeling. While you can find the entire article on the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the gist of it includes such findings that people sitting in hard chairs were less willing to negotiate than people in more comfortable chairs.

So while this is not intended to serve as a call to check the comfort of the  seating in the meeting room, it is a great reminder just how much our opinions and our points of view can be affected by our comfort level, our perspective, or the lack thereof on decisions that may have great importance to our organizations.

There is a full raft of questions related to this that may be worth considering, some of which come straight from the experts on running great meetings:

  1. Where do you actually hold your meetings? Same place ‘most every time?
  2. How is the meeting room configured?  Big, imposing mahogany board table? A place or thing to share ideas?  Even a flip chart?
  3. Who sits where? Does that ever shift?
  4. How long do the meetings last?

Now, let’s be honest with ourselves.  Some of these are things we would rather not change.  We like our chairs, our views, our patterns.  We find them comforting.  But changing things up now and then helps to ensure that we really do have a full set of perspectives, much of which we simply cannot gather by sitting in the same seats, or relying on the same set of inputs.

The young songwriter, Merrily James, tells us to “Get up, go out, change your views”. In the somewhat less musical terms of the first of the NACD Key Agreed Principles, “governance structures and practices should be designed by the board to position the board to fulfill its duties effectively and efficiently.” In either case, the challenge is the same: making sure you stand up and take in the view, regardless of where or how you sit.

How do you ensure that in your meetings?  Let us know.

Staying Connected to Your Companies

Published by

In the past few weeks, I have spent time with individual directors and entire boards in a particularly wide range of companies. The companies they serve represent the entire spectrum of publicly traded entities, from high-tech entities with $100 million market caps to multi-billion dollar multi-national spectaculars.

Maybe because we’ve been lucky or maybe because the corporate directors who choose to interact with NACD are among the more conscientious of the category, our impression is that, for the most part, the people in these roles are diligent in their efforts to serve the stakeholders they represent.

While most corporate directors seem to be actively engaged with the basics of the company’s performance and how shareowners and the public view the company– reading press releases, checking out earnings reports and perusing company web sites – there may still be a disconnect in understanding what is going on at a ground level.

Here are a few starting points corporate directors can use to gain a deeper understanding:

  1. Set up a Google Alert for news about the company and read what’s being written.
  2. Troll the job websites to see what people are saying about what it’s like to work there. LinkedIn, particularly, is revealing of corporate culture and diversity. Search for your company (and check out NACD’s LinkedIn group!).
  3. Read relevant consumer and industry blogs, and/or go on Facebook.com to see how the company shows up in the eyes of others.
  4. Regularly have an inexpensive lunch or have coffee or meet in other informal settings with company employees other than the CEO and the executive team.
  5. Listen in on earnings/analyst calls.
  6. Sit quietly at employee “town meetings.”
  7. Sit through new-employee orientations.
  8. Purchase company products or interact with the company in the exact same way as the general public does, with no special treatment (or even awareness) on the part of company employees.

How else do you keep your finger on the pulse? Share your practices and ideas below.

Welcome to the NACD Blog!

Published by

We all have a stake in Corporate America – whether or not we own stock.

Most of us rely on Corporate America for our jobs – either directly or indirectly. And it’s a life-long dependency – from birth to death we use its products, depend on its innovation, look to it to supply the lifestyles we have too often taken for granted.

Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, Corporate America is too important to be left to the unknowing. We intend to use this blog to tee up and explore important concerns: yours, ours and the directors who are our members. If this is to work, it will demand diligence, patience and the mutual respect that knowledgeable people grant to one another.

Through this blog, I hope we all can become more knowledgeable about Corporate America, each other’s views and, more importantly, over time, identify a few ground-breaking ideas. So as the pilot just said: Sit back and enjoy the ride, but keep your seat belt loosely connected – there are bound to be some bumps along the way!