Leading Boards

Leading Boards discussion
Last night I attended a GMA event on ‘Leading Boards’ with Michael Chaney, Margaret Sears and Michael Smith – each have extensive Board experience, here are my notes:


  • putting a Board together has become more of a serious business
  • usually there is a full search process, with a skills matrix showing gaps that need filling
  • make yourself known to search firms that fill Boards if interested
  • leading a Board – the Chair has an important role – to keep things open, and have every question answered satisfactorily
  • Chairs must be democratic (to a degree), inclusive but also decisive – send out options but say which you prefer and why, give guidance
  • appraising Board members is an annual affair, taken seriously
  • go through each appraisal with Board member
  • non performing ones (don’t read the papers, few contributions or too obstructive) are ‘retired’
  • ideal number of Board is 8-10


  • Google “Enron and ethics” to see countless journals and papers on what happens when culture is wrong
  • must brief Board members on what their role is
  • Chairs do not work if too autocratic or too democratic
  • intrusion into management is a no no
  • beware the ‘Squeaky Wheel’ who gets the oil – they are probably not inclusive, otherwise they’d talk less!


  • Boards are time consuming and can spend all their time on risk management and not on performance
  • Boards should be about working with high performing members, to improve the business
  • few Boards set goals, but it is crucial – real goals at the beginning of the year – how they will add value, what they can achieve this year
  • the informal time a Board spends together can be more valuable than similar Board meetings with familiar set agenda items and rhythmn
  • allow some time for unstructured discussion, for the best ideas come then
  • go to the management group and ask ‘how can we help your performance’?
  • each Board member should have individual goal(s) to strive for, something they can concentrate on

All great advice for those on Boards or who are aspiring to be on them. I had heard Chaney and Sears many times before and they were both excellent as always, but it was the first time I’d heard Michael Smith (Chair of iiNet, Synergy among others) and he made a really strong impression. Very open and honest, forthright and spoke good sense.

One thought on “Leading Boards

  1. Thank you Charlie for taking time to do this. Unfortunately I was away notwithstanding I booked for the event at the time it was announced.

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