The First-Time Board Member Checklist

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Board membership is an adventure in leadership unlike any other. Individuals who are new to the role of director will be challenged in new and unique ways.

In order to meet this challenge head-on, they’ll need to continually develop their expertise while adjusting to a system of checks and balances that is meant to help bring the best decisions forward.

An experienced CEO or CFO may jump into a first-time board member position with a lot of confidence, and that’s a good thing! But they also need to understand the ways in which their role will differ from the internal positions they’ve held in the past.
Here are some tips for making a smooth transition from business leader to board member extraordinaire.
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How to Ensure Board and CEO Collaboration

board and ceo collaboration

Board members and CEOs may serve different purposes in an organization, but with the right working relationship, they can help take a company to new heights.

Creating a strong bond between these two entities takes time, focus, and mutual respect, but once it’s been created, the connection can be the difference between a company that just gets by and one that excels.

Make it a priority to ensure board and CEO collaboration. When it comes to getting the most out of the board to CEO relationship, here are our suggestions:

CEOs should interact with board members individually, and as a group

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Strategies for Managing Board Vacancies

Board vacancies

Inevitably, the time will come when your board has one or more empty seats to fill. For boards that are already small in number, having vacancies can cause some strain.

But, unless your bylaws mandate a quorum that you cannot meet, your board should be able to continue operating normally until the seats are filled.

However, there are some stressors you may encounter along the way. Here are some helpful tips for confronting them.

An even number of directors creates a tie vote.

Perhaps, your board typically has 10 members plus a board chairperson for tie-breaking votes. What happens if you’re down one member, and the vote splits? Obviously, if your bylaws dictate a procedure for a tie vote, be sure to follow it. If you have no process already in place, your best option is to revisit discussion on the issue at hand and vote again.

If the vote comes out the same, consider enlisting the opinion of an outside expert. This individual would not cast a vote, but they could bring more information to the table, which could help shift the overall vote counts.
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boardroom burnout

Avoid the Dreaded Boardroom Burnout

The expectations for board members have been on a sharp rise for the past two decades. Companies are relying more and more on their directors both inside and outside of meeting settings, and with that dependence comes an often inevitable outcome: boardroom burnout.

Although directors at for-profit companies may feel this strain, it’s especially common among their nonprofit counterparts. Since nonprofit board roles are usually volunteer-based, it’s not uncommon for members to take early or unexpected exits from their positions. Here are some tips for avoiding “boardroom burnout” situations.

Recognize and establish limits

It may sound simple, but if you can’t tackle the extra hours needed to head up a committee or act as the board secretary, politely decline those leadership positions. It’s better to stay in a less demanding role (if you still feel connected to the cause) than it is to leave and force the organization to fill a void.
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Warren Buffett’s 10 Commandments for Board Leaders

Warren Buffett is perhaps the most recognized name in the history of American corporate governance. As the leader of Berkshire Hathaway, a multinational conglomerate holding company, Buffett has become one of the most accomplished businesspersons of all time.

Warren Buffett's 10 Commandments

Because of his immense success, Buffett’s advice carries with it great weight and authority. Many of his essays and letters have been collected for publication, and he’s known among journalists for his quotable quips and reasonable advice for investors.

Recently, a George Washington University professor named Lawrence Cunningham compiled a list of Buffett’s most important guidelines for corporate directors, which was published in the latest edition of NACD’s Directorship magazine.

You can read a condensed and edited version of that article here. These “ten commandments” for business leaders, as Cunningham calls them, are what Buffett cites for his vast amount of boardroom triumphs.
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