The New Director Toolkit
Remember when before a new school year started you would be given a list of things that you needed to buy to be prepared for the year ahead; like pencils, pens, a calculator, exercise books, text books, etc.?
They really need one of those for when you first join a board.
The organisation usually has a list of things that it gives new board members when they first start to get you up to speed and inducted into the business as quickly as possible.
But what about the other way around? What tools and equipment do you need to set yourself up to be an effective director?
We hope to save you from learning the hard way with this ‘back to board’ list of things you should have in your new director starter kit:
Useful for storing the plethora of information, meeting agendas, minutes, attachments, your meeting notes, and other such documents that you will accumulate. It helps to have a binder folder for each board and committee you sit on. Divider tabs are necessary too – use them to divide each month’s meeting information (trust me, it helps to do that).
As a director you should be taking contemporaneous notes during all board and committee meetings. What this means is that you should take your own notes at the time when comments, discussions, debates, and decisions are being made during the meeting.
Get yourself a notebook for each board and each committee you sit on. It may be overkill, but it’s good risk management and prudent director behaviour. Use it to note down the action items that you are assigned, and discussions that took place.
I work through a notebook until it’s full, then I store it and start another one. Any type of notebook is fine (but perhaps keep your Hello Kitty one for home).
If you’re looking for online note taking options and apps, check out this round-up of some of the best that are available.
Online Document Storage Facility
Cloud-based storage programs like Dropbox and Evernote allow you to save documents (like board packs) into a personal or group account that you can then access from anywhere there is an internet connection. I have a process of saving all of the electronic information I need for meetings into my Dropbox account and access the papers during meetings from my iPad.
I then file all of the electronic documents into a permanent folder on my computer after each board and committee meeting.
Programs such as Our Cat Herder go beyond this individual process and provide whole boards with centralised information management. These programs are great tools for organisations to utilise, as all board and committee related correspondence is kept in one location accessible from anywhere at any time. Action items can be allocated to each director, meeting agendas and minutes can be easily accessed, and directors can make decisions between meetings.
Email Inbox Sub-Folders
Most of the information that you need to function as an effective company director comes to you digitally via email.
To deal with the all of the emails you will receive, set up a sub-folder for each board – and a sub-sub-folder for each associated board committee – to file all related correspondence. Either flag-and-file emails that need to be read / actioned, or leave these particular emails in your inbox until you have actioned them.
Space in your Schedule
Your time commitment for a board goes beyond just attending the board meeting. It has to incorporate meeting preparation time, committee commitments, community / stakeholder events, and other tasks expected of board members.
Make sure you allocate time into your weekly schedule for ‘board work’. This is time where you action emails and work through items on your ‘board to-do list’.
A Mentor and/or Trusted Advisor(s)
As a new director, you’re going to have a lot of questions, concerns, and queries about everything that happens on a board. Having an independent and experienced person (or people) that you can ask ‘stupid’ questions to can boost your confidence and expedite your effectiveness as a director.
Members of Get on Board have access to an experienced company director and a group of peers whose experiences and learnings they can draw from in a safe and confidential learning environment.
We hope this new director starter kit sets you on the path to being an organised and confident new company director. When you’re organised and confident, you then focus on being a highly effective company director.