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10 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Board

There is growing recognition of the importance of the role of the Board, both in driving performance and keeping the organisation safe and legal.  Boards are putting more effort into checking out potential new directors before bringing them into the boardroom.  Directors need to do their homework too, to ensure the board they join is the right one for them, and to minimise the personal risks.

About You

  1. Does the work of that board make your eyes light up?  Life is too short to do work that doesn’t excite you.  Whether your interest is making profit, making a difference, or inventing something new and wonderful, your Board work will be much more satisfying if it’s contributing to that goal.  When the going gets tough, it will be important that you are fully committed to getting through the tough patch and building new success with your Board colleagues.
  2. What time commitment will be required of you?  How many days will you be remunerated for?  How many days will you really do?  How many days will the work demand?  According to the McKinsey Quarterly survey, June 2011, on average board members were paid for 25 days’ input, when they were actually spending 28 days, and believed that ideally they should be spending 38 days!
  3.  What specific input does the Board want from you, in addition to the generic requirements of all board members?  Most of us join a board because we want to make an impact, so it’s important that your unique skills and experience will be put to good use.

About The Board

  1. For me, one of the most important questions is ‘Who else is in the boardroom’?  Do they have the ability for this work, the integrity to enable you to trust them, commitment to make this work a priority?  Is there strong and effective leadership from the Chair and Chief Executive, and is their relationship positive?
  2. Will you be given effective induction to your board role?  Is there evidence of regular board training and development, board review, board member review?  The best boards we have worked with have developed a ‘learning board’ culture, with a clear governance action plan each year ensuring that the board leads by example in the on-going drive for excellence.
  3. Has the board articulated the values that should drive the culture and behaviours at all levels in the organisation?  Does the culture in the boardroom reflect them?

About The Organisation

  1. Is there a clear shared vision of the future, and an effective strategy to achieve it?
  2. Is there clarity about the risk appetite of the board, which may vary for different parts of the business, and has the board given thought to the top 5 strategic risks?  Is the board agenda influenced by those strategic risks?
  3. Is there a clear scheme of delegation, including a schedule of matters reserved to the board?
  4. How clear is the information about the health of the organisation – its finances, relationships with key internal and external stakeholders – and what does the information tell you?