At the end of a lengthy discussion of key board practices at the NACD Boston conference, a panel of senior corporate directors was asked, “what is the single most important secret of an effective corporate Board?” You might expect a sophisticated set of responses. It turns out that what was deemed most important was basic blocking and tackling:
First, board members must show up at the board meetings fully prepared.
Second, cell phones off.
Third, diversity of all sorts on the board, including diversity in substance, diversity in race, diversity in gender, diversity in ethnicity and diversity in geography.
My personal response, based on decades of sitting on and advising boards, is “ability to be quiet and listen to the end when someone speaks.” At board meetings, egos sometime run rampant, everyone trying to prove how smart they are. Listening fosters respect and cooperation; if the right people are in the room, that cooperative dialog drives good decision-making.