Collaborative leadership in the boardroom?

Collaborative Leadership in the BoardroomEarlier this week I attended the 2014 Socia Collaborative Leadership briefing, which this year focused on Collaborative Leadership in the Boardroom. (Last year’s saw the launch of Messrs Archer and Cameron’s book Collaborative Leadership).

Who better to share practical experience on boards than the Chair of super-sized global recruitment firm Harvey Nash plc: Julie Baddeley.

In case you haven’t come across the statistic-defying Julie: she has served on a wide range of boards in the private and public sectors including the UK Department of Health, industrial gas company BOC plc, and high street regular Greggs – not to mention as executive director of the building society Woolwich plc.

She has also taught at Oxford’s Saïd Business School and been a partner at Accenture. So no shortage of credentials in other words.

Here are the three key things I took away from the briefing:

Boards are collaborative groups but not necessarily teams

You need to think differently about the dynamics – and continuous evaluation of board performance is essential to make the most of the time and resource invested. If the board doesn’t work well, the business is likely to mirror both behaviours and outcomes.

The UK Corporate Governance Code is clear on the need for this: “The board should undertake a formal and rigorous annual evaluation of its own performance and that of its committees and individual directors.” – the challenge is the approach taken. Is it just a tick-box exercise or is there genuine reflection going on? Here’s Socia’s approach to this – if you want help with that.

Boards should be willing to let go of projects despite sunk cost if they no longer make strategic sense

Julie illustrated with an example of a sizeable capital investment a board she served on earlier clung to, but eventually realised was better let go of. This takes some explaining though, even if it means a future saving. For that you need to get your ducks in row. One way is to use Caroline Kealey’s Results Map structure. It’ll force clarity – and will help you communicate why your decision equals alignment. If you need help, shout.

To get value from a board: bring options – not a fait accompli

Indeed, as was noted at a different conference earlier in the week (SMILE London), it is time we move from tell & sell to involve and co-create. That does not meant the board should be hands in operational issues – that’s not their job. It is about clarity of roles – and clarity of decision making within that – and for that to take place, there needs to be room for rigorous discussion.

Help is at hand – we can help you navigate how to build those relationships. We’ve worked across the public, private and non-profit spheres to help teams make better decisions – leaving you with tools and techniques to face the 21st century with a higher success rate + happier people = more impact with less effort.

Get in touch if you want to have an informal chat about how we can help you tackle team challenges.

Michael Ambjorn is founder of // Align Your Org and board director @IABC – follow @michaelambjorn for more of the above. You can also join the conversation: #ALIGN and in this case of course #GuideStar