Board Member Qualifications

At a recent Canadian farm organization conference, a board member shared that a key to the effectiveness of his organization’s board is its practice of clearly defining board member expectations and holding board members accountable to fulfilling them. He suggested that it is very important for a board of directors to indicate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are musts for someone to be eligible to run for a board position. He indicated that they have listed competencies that board candidates must have the day they become board members so they are adequately equipped to serve the organization and its owners well. This organization also lists the valuable board member competencies that board members can develop after they are elected or appointed, if they aren’t already strong in these areas as well.

Many board members I have talked with in other organizations are not in favour of any screening of board member candidates. They believe that such a practice interferes with the grassroots democratic process. They suggest that the necessary requirement for board members is to be a member or owner of the organization or company who is willing to serve on the board. They prefer putting the names of all interested on the ballot for consideration by the voting members or owners.

What are your perspectives on the benefits and pitfalls of either or both of these opinions about board member qualifications?

The Board’s Role in Selecting a New CEO

When an organization’s CEO leaves, it is the board’s responsibility to select a quality replacement. How the board engages in this selection process varies greatly. Some boards review all the applications. Others establish a selection committee to short list the best candidates. Yet others engage an outside third party to assist with the process. In some organizations the full board interviews the top few candidates and selects the best fit, while in others the board ratifies the first choice candidate presented by the board’s selection committee. And there are many other elements and variations on how the board exercises its responsibility to select the new CEO.

What are your experiences and thoughts on effective CEO selection strategies? In what steps is it meaningful for the whole board to be engaged? In what ways can a sub-committee or third party provide useful assistance to the board as it selects the most appropriate CEO to lead the organization’s operations?

Board Policies: Firm or Flexible?

Are board policies firm rules or flexible guidelines? I have worked with some boards who enforce their policies consistently and with other boards who permit exceptions to their policies under various circumstances. What is the impact of each approach?
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