The Power of Persistence for a Company Director
Over the past few weeks I have asked my husband twice what my next post should be about. Twice he answered ‘persistence’. I’ll let the irony of that just sink in for a second…
All jokes aside, he does have a valid point. Thinking back on my board career to this date, persistence has been a silent but consistent guiding principle.
Persistence is a trait that is often not considered when thinking about what makes a great board member. It has the ability to keep you focused and moving toward your goals. Yet, when overplayed, can make you come across as overly dogged – where you’re wanting to achieve something just to say you’ve achieved it regardless of whether the outcome is right or not. Underplayed, you sit there doing nothing, thinking about all of the greatness that could be if only…
So how does persistence play out for you in the boardroom? Here are a few of the ways I have seen its influence:
Understanding Your Role
Many times I have written about the awkwardness of sitting through your first board meeting. You’re not sure what you’re meant to do or say, the language used and issues discussed are foreign to you, and you’re trying hard to impress everyone (mainly yourself) and confirm to them that they made the right decision voting you in.
If you relied on this experience to judge whether you would be an effective board member or not, you would resign immediately.
Understanding your role as a board member is one part of the equation. Understanding your role as a board member on this particular board with this particular group of people is the flip side of the coin.
This is where persistence first comes to your rescue. Adjusting to a new role and a new team takes time. Understanding why you are there (as a company director) and what you should be focusing on gives you the confidence to fulfill your duties and responsibilities. Learning what these duties and responsibilities are takes a little time; knowing how to use them effectively and efficiently takes longer. It is a skill that you will consistently have to refine over your board career.
Working as a Team
The board as a team is a concept that I have been thinking a lot about lately. In some ways it’s no different to other peer teams that you would find in any workplace. You all have different skills at different levels, you all have unique temperaments and personalities, you all have personal agendas to achieve, and you all have to work together to achieve the greatest outcome for the organisation.
As I mentioned in the previous point, you have to invest time and energy into understanding how to work well with this new group of people. Persistence arrives here once again. Along with its close friend consistency.
Learning what drives your fellow board members and how best you can navigate this group requires buckets of consistent persistence. Trust me, there will be times when you ask yourself if it’s worth it. For the greater good of the organisation, it is. Knowing how to work with and through your teammates is necessary in a place where the majority rules.
Having adequate relationship-building moments is a smart idea for any team. The board is no different. I have written previously about dating your board (view post here). That post shares some ideas on how to strengthen personal bonds on the board.
Learning and Education
The day that you no longer need to learn anything is the day you die. That’s pretty dramatic; but I think it’s true. The thing I see that lets most board members down is that they think they know it all. These folk appear out of touch and old fashioned when they come up with “ideas” and present [old-fashioned] suggestions to [modern] issues.
Persistence here is your ally; taking on a directorship means taking on a ‘forever learner’ mindset. The pace in which business, technology, the economy, and legislation is changing requires you to stay fresh and sharp. You don’t need to know everything; you do need to know the right questions to ask.
Persistent and consistent reading, watching, and listening is mandatory for board members. I have written extensively on this fact and I strongly believe it is the difference between a great director and an OK director (particularly when partnered with an open mind and a favour for change).
One last important thing: persisting takes patience. I hear that many people – particularly those who want to get on boards – find that patience is not one of their strengths. Me too! The irony here is that practicing patience also requires persistence. Thankfully, they play off each other, making both stronger as you practice each.
How do you practice persistence?