Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Do the Best Boards Believe?

What do the best boards of directors have in common? What common beliefs might they share? I was thinking of this as I read 12 Things Good Bosses Believe by Bob Sutton. He lists the following as key beliefs "that are held by the best bosses — and rejected, or more often simply never even thought about, by the worst bosses." 

  1. I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
  2. My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods. 
  3. Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day. 
  4. One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough. 
  5. My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well. 
  6. I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.
  7. I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.
  8. One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is "what happens after people make a mistake?"
  9. Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too. 
  10. Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
  11. How I do things is as important as what I do. 
  12. Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realizing it.

Which beliefs do the best boards embrace?

Think about what makes for a great board, then look over the above list and ask yourself, "Which of these twelve beliefs are most likely to be embraced by the best boards?"   I contend items # 8, 10 and 12 deserve to be at the top of the list because the best boards:
  • Are able to respond, in a mature, non-scapegoating fashion, when mistakes occur.
  • Realize their ability to do bad is greater than their ability to do good.
  • Are cognizant of how much power they wield and realize, accordingly, that might doesn't make for right decisions.
What do you think?

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