It takes a team to win the board game (part 1)

Newsweek isn’t where I expect to find advice on developing strong boards. However, a recent issue of the magazine provided just that with an article titled “How to Build a Winning Team.”  It’s immediately obvious (at least to me) that the four-step approach suggested by consultants Jack and Suzy Welch is as useful in the boardroom as in the world of business.

So board chairs and nonprofit CEOs, listen up. This advice (the Welch’s in italic and mine in regular face) is for you. Steps one and two are here and steps three and four will follow in my next post. 

First, the leaders of winning teams always – always – let their people know where they stand. On winning teams, leaders spend the vast majority of their time lavishing love on top performers. . . Similarly, on winning teams, leaders devote a lot of energy to middling performers, relentlessly coaching. And as for the do-nothings: leaders face into these individuals with a sense of reality.

  • Governance application: Board members who behave inappropriately are uncommon and those with malicious intent are rare. However, when 20 or 30 fallen humans gather together as a governing board, one or two might slide into bad behavior between meetings. It’s the board chair’s challenge to transform a bunch of eager walk-ons into a winning team – a challenge that sometimes requires straight talk with members who aren’t meeting the mark of their high calling.

Second, winning teams know the game plan. There’s never been a Super Bowl team that charged the field thinking, We’ll figure this out as it goes along and see what happens. . . On winning teams, leaders infuse their people with crazy-positive enthusiasm about what winning will look like for the company, and more important, for them as individuals.

  • Governance application: Once considered primarily the domain of administrators, these days planning is a shared responsibility. To be sure, it’s unusual for board members to actually write a plan document. Yet the board’s fingerprints should be all over it – beginning with the board’s direction to staff about what it is that makes up success for the organization. Once the game is in play, the board should expect ongoing evaluation of the plan, with anticipation of adjustments along the way.

What's your take on this topic?

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