STRATEGY > BOARD > Change your norms


Change your norms

The norms of the board develop as the usual way it gets things done. They are the accumulated habits about how directors behave and interact with each other. Norms are usually tacit and may or may not support the outcomes the board needs and wants to achieve. A discussion in which directors make their preferred ways of interacting explicit can help the board improve its performance. These norms can then be introduced to new directors during the orientation process. The chairman needs to invoke the norms as part of that role, or the responsibility can be placed with the vice chairman during meetings.

Examples of constructive norms that directors may set and agree to for working together may include some of the following:

  • Everyone contributes and adds value
  • Stay focused on the agenda topic
  • Listen without interrupting or talking over each other
  • Ask questions and explore concerns without getting mired in tactical details
  • If it needs to be said, say it during the meeting instead of in the parking lot
  • Remain at a strategic or policy level instead of detailed, tactical level
  • Assume positive intent
  • Avoid defensiveness if challenged
  • Issues are not re-hashed after voting; support is expected after voting
  • Speak to a purpose; avoid grandstanding
  • Each of us can and will support change
  • Take a stand on issues and learn when it is time to let go

These types of norms can launch a board in a far more constructive operating mode when agreed to by all members and enforced by board leadership.



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