Two years ago on 22 November 2018 I wrote a post about Boards and whether they may be stifling their organisation’s agility. If you missed it, you can read it here - Board post in November 2018. If only I had known that two years on, my Chair would ask me to write a post about what it is like working with him and our Consulting Board of Directors. I know what you are thinking… this could end badly for me right?!?
Well, the fact that Graeme Allan suggested this tells you a lot about the type of Chairperson he is and the nature of the Board he leads. We were unusual as a start-up because we had a Board in place from day one so it is good to share our experience.
In my earlier post I asked five questions so let’s see how our own Consulting Board stacks up on a couple of those questions…
Do our Board members know what they don’t know?
I think it’s fair to assume that our Board members knew quite a bit about Consulting because they decided to add a Consulting business to the Anderson Anderson & Brown family in 2018. However, Graeme and Board members were quick to point out that they had never run a Consulting business and were not going to start. As an Executive Team we set the ambition, market focus, targets and standards for the business. The Board regularly challenge us on how we could do more, how we are planning to break into new markets and whether using llamas in our marketing collateral is really ‘on brand’. They challenged but most of all they supported; both professionally and personally. It is the people in Boards and Executive Teams that create the right working environment, not the Board meetings or reports.
Are our Board members good advocates for our Consulting customers?
We are very fortunate that we have Board members who are curious, interested and open to new things. So much so, that they have been a paying client for our services (our Board members are also Partners in Anderson Anderson & Brown LLP). There is no doubt that our chat about service design, digital transformation and change was very different to what they were used to but they embraced it and said ‘show us how we can change our business’. This has made them even better advocates for our customers.
So, rather than stifle our agility, our Board has encouraged it. We have felt challenged (and we know we have been a bit challenging at times!) but, most of all, we have felt supported. We have Board members who are prepared to get their sleeves rolled up when asked but who also respect the fact that the Executive Team needs to have the freedom to run the business and they trust us to do exactly that.
So, my takeaways…
- Help your Board members understand the business. It might be different from what they are used to but understanding leads to good decisions.
- Remember that Board members will have different drivers and these will, at times, be different from yours. This variety is good – embrace it.
- Focus more on the people dynamics and relationships rather than the meetings and reports. This is where the value truly lies.