Recommendations for an effective board
How can you make sure to have an effective board of directors?
Here are recommendations from:
- Louise St-Pierre, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Cogeco Connexion, president of the board of Domaine Forget;
- Josée Duplessis (EMBA 2016), Chief of Staff for the Minister of Family, Children and Social Development of Canada;
- Guillaume Lavoie (EMBA 2016), partner at Lavery and member of the firm’s board of directors;
- Ginette Mailhot (EMBA 2014), founder of Capital Humain Plus, president of the board of the Economic Development Corporation of the MRC de Joliette.
Decide if you really want/need to have a Board of Directors.
Ginette Mailhot is an experienced entrepreneur. She believes that entrepreneurs are often reluctant to create a board of directors (or an Advisory Board) because they believe “it can weigh you down and it is expensive”. While there is some truth to that, Ginette is convinced that having a board “ensures rigor.” Working with a board requires a certain amount of structure, which can lead to greater efficiency.
Think about who you want as board members.
For Louise St-Pierre, it is important to fight for diversity, in all its forms. And, she notes, we all have prejudices, so we need to make sure that they do not influence our choices.
According to Ginette Mailhot, people external to your company are important. They can be particularly helpful in areas where you may lack internal expertise. She recommends daring to ask people who have extensive expertise, people you admire. A Board of Directors can be a treasure trove of resources, but this is only possible if the board gathers people of diverse profiles and expertise.
Louise recommends paying attention to the “boys club” and taking the time to choose the right people for everyone’s needs. That is, a board that will represent the interests of both customers and employees.
According to Guillaume Lavoie, it’s important to choose board members who take their role seriously. Those with a real interest, or passion for the organization. This will ensure everyone is working towards the same objectives.
Make sure the Board is doing its job.
Louise St-Pierre argues that the best way to ensure the real contribution of every member of the board is to conduct 360 evaluations. Have board members evaluate each other. Evaluations should be done annually, prior to general meetings, and the chairman should also be assessed by all members. Everyone’s objectives and tasks should be clear, as they will be the basis for the evaluations.
Josée Duplessis points to one of the main difficulties of being a board member, which is to find the right balance between support and challenge. She believes that the primary role of the board is to understand how the company is doing: know the environment, the social trends, understand who the shareholders are, etc., and to have the courage to address the real questions if something isn’t going as it should.
All four of these experienced board members agree that ensuring a board’s effectiveness is an ongoing responsibility, as both board members and business conditions are in constant evolution.