By Gino Blefari
This week my travels found me first in Minneapolis for a HomeServices of America, Inc. board meeting and then in chilly Chicago for the National Association of REALTORS® Conference & Expo. But more on my Windy City trip and NAR takeaways in next week’s post …
For now, let’s return to Minneapolis and talk about boards. In official corporate terms, a board of directors is primarily responsible for protecting shareholders’ assets and ensuring they receive a good return on investment. In this particular case, the HSoA board met to discuss budgeting, assess risk and in general, make decisions that would move the organization and its affiliates toward even more growth and profitability.
Writing for the Stanford Business Magazine, David Dodson, director in several boards and Stanford lecturer, explains that a well-run, efficient board creates the necessary scaffolding for sustainable success. “If you leave those board meetings consistently prepared to do something differently because you learned something from the board meeting, that’s the mark of a good board,” Dodson says.
In other words, good boards work when there’s synergy, open-mindedness, fluidity and candor. Members serve at the discretion of the board and there’s an unspoken—or sometimes spoken— agreement that dissention is not only encouraged but also welcomed. Debating alternative viewpoints is the epitome of a high-performing board. As Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management once wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “Effective boards require their members to play a variety of roles, in some cases dipping deep into the details of a particular business, in others playing the devil’s advocate, in still others serving as the project manager. Playing different roles gives directors a wider view of the business and of the alternatives available to it.”
Another key aspect to an efficient board of directors is preparation. Every member of the HSoA board is supremely prepared well before he or she steps into that board room and totally versed on the issues at hand. As a board member, you can’t assume you know everything. (Recall one of my favorite sayings, “Once you think you know it all your slide to mediocrity has already begun.”)
So, what’s the message? Well, think of a board of directors as a macro-example of your own company and leadership team. As leaders, you must ensure each member of your team exhibits candor, preparedness, collaboration and mutual trust and respect. Even if you haven’t developed an official board of directors, you should operate the same way these governing corporate bodies do. Welcome dissent, encourage discussion and come to agreements that are cloaked in decisive thought and extensive research. No large-scale company leader operates on his or her own and neither, too, should your own firm have one leader making decisions without consulting others first.