The NFL draft is upon us and commentators have been talking a lot about what makes a winning team. Having a winning team, of course, requires putting the right players on the field. In the Draft and otherwise, NFL teams look for players with different, complimentary skill sets to fill various positions on the field. Likewise, they also look for players with the right attitudes, energy levels and work habits.
Composing a great corporate Board of Directors is no different. A company is well-served by having Board members with a range of complimentary skill sets, but who can work together as an effective team.
In filling a Board, like an NFL team at draft time, you will want to look at your existing Board and then look for people who have complimentary skill sets, while perhaps adding new expertise or outlooks to the group.
Just like an NFL team can generally be divided into three groups (offense, defense and special teams), so generally can a Board (insider/management directors, related/affiliated outside directors and true independent directors). And just like the quarterback is crucial to an NFL team, the Chairman of the Board is critical to the success of the Board. Identifying and securing the right Chairman is an important step in fielding a successful Board.
NFL teams put a premium on players who don’t miss many games. Likewise, Director attendance at meetings and participation in Board affairs is crucial. You should make certain prospective Board members are prepared to make the necessary time commitment to fulfill their duties and responsibilities. Board members, like their NFL counterparts, should be routinely evaluated to make certain they are participating and performing as anticipated. Also, like an NFL team does, the Board needs to be reviewed periodically for refreshment of members and for eventual succession.
Like players on NFL teams have different technical skill sets, so should Board members. While some Board members may hold their positions due to underlying ownership interests, general wealth or connections, most should bring to the table tangible skills (e.g., in financial oversight, law, marketing, management, human resources, strategic planning and technology). As an NFL player is more than just his bare technical skills, so is a prospective Board member. You may also want to consider a prospective Board member’s resources (money and otherwise), connections, and perspectives (e.g., through age, race, and gender).
Any NFL team will tell you that what makes a championship team is “chemistry.” The players must trust and respect each other and have a team spirit that can’t be easily quantified. So, too, it is with a Board. Finding a Board with the right chemistry is paramount. This doesn’t mean that you find all “yes” people, but, rather, that you find people who are willing to stand for what they believe, but who are willing to honestly and openly consider and respect the views of others.
As any NFL team will tell you, putting a championship team on the field isn’t easy and it’s an on-going challenge, but it is certainly worth the effort. Putting a great Board together isn’t either easy, but it is absolutely worth the work. Put in the time and effort and field your winning team.