Five Self On-boarding Strategies
A lot has been said about how boards can on-board new board members. With all that has been written and talked about in this regard, it’s well known that boards can do a much better job at integrating new members in a way that allows the director to start meaningfully contributing and for the organisation to start receiving value.
If you are in a situation where a robust on-boarding process is not forthcoming, it’s time to take matters into your own hands. You have the personal responsibility to introduce yourself to the business and to get to know the organisation at a level that helps and enables you to perform your director duties.
Here are five ways to on-board yourself on any board:
1. Read the constitution and last three annual reports
The constitution will help you to understand the rules of the game. Knowing what and how the board and organisation has to operate in key areas helps you to ensure that processes and procedures are followed and that decisions and actions taken by the board are authorised and legitimate.
Reviewing the past three annual reports gives you a picture of how the organisation has performed over the past few years and will give you a sense of whether the trajectory is positive or negative. It will also likely illuminate key challenges and changes that the organisation has faced during this time. Knowing this gives you past perspective that helps you understand current situations, mindsets, and how it may be influencing current decision-making.
Side note: the chances are that you read these documents during your due diligence before you joined the board. Take some time to re-read them on a deeper level.
2. Read the board charter
This document gives you a clear understanding of the internal management of the board. It will follow the rules and requirements stipulated in the constitution; however, will go beyond it to cover things like the board’s governance role, key board functions, board processes, board effectiveness, and behavioural dynamics.
3. Get to know your fellow board members
If you didn’t do a Google search about who you would be sharing a board with before you joined the board, now is your time to do some online stalking! Understand what your fellow board members do, where they came from, mutual acquaintances, and how long they have been on the board. This information may give you some insights into how they think and what influences their decisions.
Once you understand their backgrounds, make a time to meet or talk one on one with your fellow directors to build some rapport. It doesn’t all have to be board talk; get to know them beyond the boardroom. It will help you be a better team overall.
4. Introduce yourself to the organisation’s staff and/or volunteers
With the CEO and Chair’s blessing, make some time to meet the team doing the day-to-day work of the organisation. Keep the conversation light by asking about their role, how long they’ve been with the organisation, what motivated them to join the organisation, etc.
Getting to know the team will help give you perspective in your decision-making and will help normalise the board and directors in the eyes of the staff (and hopefully remove the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that some directors and team members may hold).
5. Get involved in the day-to-day (just once)
Some people may scream at me for this one: “the board must stay strategic!” Yes, I agree. However, if you don’t have perspective of the day-to-day realities that workers face, how can you be sure that you’re making fully informed decisions in the boardroom?
Taking time out of your day to work ‘in’ the business may be a little extreme for some; however, it is something that I have committed to doing on the boards I join going forward. Particularly for industries I am less familiar with.
I feel that this simple activity will exponentially increase the rate at which you will ‘understand the business’ and will give you invaluable perspective of what employees face daily and how the organisation is currently serving its customers.
If you’re feeling a little left out of the loop on your new board, perhaps its time to take initiative and get to know your board and organisation on a deeper level. These five steps are a good start.