In the 2022 PWC Annual Corporate Directors Survey, 48% of directors believe one or more of their fellow directors should be replaced. If you are on a board, there is a chance that you are one of those, although if you are reading this article, maybe that’s a good sign you’re not.
Here are the questions you should be asking yourself:
- Are you independent? Have you been on the board so long that you have lost your independence? Some boards think directors should not be on a board for more than six years. Others believe that 10 is the magic number. If you have been on the board for more than ten years, you might be “the one.” This isn’t because you don’t care or aren’t passionate about the company, but if you have been on the board for an extended period, you have probably already shared your insights with the management team. After ten years, if they haven’t made changes based on your feedback, they probably won’t.
- Are you getting annoyed or tired in the meetings? If you are annoyed or frustrated by the lack of progress on specific business challenges, you might be the one. It’s not that directors should hold management accountable, but there may be a reason they haven’t made changes based on your recommendation, and that likely won’t change.
- Are you keeping your knowledge fresh? If you are a voracious learner taking governance and industry education seriously, you are probably still bringing value. However, if you don’t have new and fresh ideas and perspectives and if you don’t have a current and extensive network that the management team can leverage, you might be the one.
- Are you a good contributor? Do you ask questions or tell people what you think? Drawing out other ideas and demonstrating curiosity can be one of the best ways to build on the collective insights of the entire board. If every director shares without reference to others’ ideas, there is no dialog, just a bunch of people talking in parallel to management rather than speaking collaboratively with management. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t times for direct discussions; it just means that there are times when one is more appropriate than another.
- Do you have a good rapport with fellow directors and the management team? This goes beyond being congenial or friendly; it’s more about trust. Do you spend your time building others up and amplifying their ideas along with your own, or do you prefer to demonstrate your knowledge to others? The management team can trust a board they believe is on their side. It should be one of the only places where the management team knows that everyone in the room is there to make them better. If the management team doesn’t trust that your hard-charging questions are there to make them better rather than make them look bad, it will be hard to build rapport.
- Are you overboarded? Are you sitting on so many boards that you can’t keep the various companies straight? Is it difficult to accommodate your schedule due to your other board activities? Do you skimp on board preparation for the “easy boards” because others are taking up so much of your time? If any of these are true, you might be the one.
- Do you get feedback? If your board has not implemented peer evaluation feedback, now is the time to incorporate this into the annual cycle. If you aren’t the “one” now, you might be in the future, and it’s better to be given real feedback along the way to pivot early and ensure you bring maximum value.
Being a great director takes time, energy, insight, collaboration, and curiosity. If you feel like any of these are lacking in your board experience, it may be time to have a long and honest talk with the board chair. As a Chairman, I value those directors who ask how they are doing and if there is anything they could do to improve. In any case, my job is to ensure that every director in our boardroom brings the maximum value possible.