Gap 3: Perspective | Beyond the Blazer

Thursday, June 16, 2016

 

 

 

Narrow perspectives in the boardroom is making life difficult for many CEOs. 

 

In Gap 1, I wrote about strategic purpose, and in Gap 2, I wrote about pace. If you combine strategic purpose and doing some of the suggested activities I included with Gap 2: Pace, something will happen to you. 

 

Your perspective will widen. 

 

 

The research shows that a board composed of directors representing a range of perspectives leads to an environment of collaborative tension that is the essence of good governance. 

 

 

One of the jobs of a director is to bring their perspective to the table. This is why diversity is so important. The mono-perspective of the white, male board may not be wide enough... and I’ll write about that in a later Gap.

 

Even if you have a white, male board, there are ways to widen your individual perspective, alter boardroom culture and bring new ideas to the boardroom. 

 

What is perspective? Your perspective is the way you see something – pick up an object and look at it from different angles. As you move the object, your perspective changes. 

 

At the management table, there is often a finance manager who sees the organisation’s activities from a financial perspective. The human resources manager may see the same activity from a workforce perspective, while the marketer looks at the activity from a customer’s perspective. CEO’s prefer to hire managers with an experienced perspective. 

 

Managers’ perspective changes when a new process, supplier or product enters the market. To be a good manager, you are expected to be an expert in your field. That means keeping up with changes and trends and considering impacts changes may have on the organisation. Managers will go to seminars, read trade magazines and blogs, attend conferences, or complete formal education like a university degree. 

 

Imagine if your marketer refused to broaden their perspective on the contemporary role of digital communication or the human resources manager refused to alter their perspective on hiring older workers and inspiring ‘millennials’. 

 

The perspective that directors bring to the board is meant to be much wider and broader than a manager’s perspective. However, many directors confuse their personal experience of life as the only perspective they will need in their board role. They accept the perspective of the CEO, and only challenge through the perspective of their demographic and personal experience. 

 

A narrow perspective is similar to the gap outlined in Purpose. That is, the board member has come to the table with knowledge of the club’s core purpose, and doesn’t offer new perspectives on any other topic. A narrow perspective is celebrating attendance at the 'University of Life', and avoiding attending any further education.

A narrow perspective is reading the daily press and not reading any texts on challenging subjects in technology, leadership, marketing and finance. 

 

A narrow perspective is not knowing your local area; the population shape, changes in housing, economic cycles, commuting patterns and community needs. A narrow perspective is not understanding how your organisation fits within the current and future local market. 

 

How wide or narrow your collective board perspective is today will affect your strategic legacy; that is the story those in the future will tell about your board’s achievements… or poor decisions. 

 

Why do we need a board that has a breadth of perspective? 

 

Boards operate at the strategic level. Having multiple views on the possible outcomes of any strategic action makes for a decision-making process that is more likely to take into account the various risks, consequences and implications of possible actions. Boards need directors that will consider risk from many angles because you don’t know where risk is going to arise. 

 

Further, a board, such as a registered club board, needs to take into consideration all of its members (not just the voting members, which is a risk in itself). Directors with diverse perspectives can better anticipate and consider the concerns and perspectives of all members. 

 

You can widen your perspective at any age. As a director, it is crucial as we live in a world where industry barriers are breaking down, global events affect us locally, the effects of technology are accelerating, and risk presents itself in new ways. Researchers at Russell Reynolds Associates state that perspective is influenced by a combination of three different sets of attributes:

  1. Experiential attributes, such as functional experience, industry experience, accomplishments and education

  2. Demographic attributes, including gender, race, region and generational cohort

  3. Personal attributes, including personality, leadership style, interests and values.

The concurrent nature of these attributes shapes how each individual approaches a situation and responds. We have the most personal influence over our experiential perspective.

 

 

 

The research shows that a board composed of directors representing a range of perspectives leads to an environment of collaborative tension that is the essence of good governance. 

 

With different perspectives, combined with the opportunity for robust discussion, there are fewer unspoken assumptions, less “we’ve always done it this way” and irrational escalation bias, and a greater likelihood of developing winning strategies.

 

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Shayne Leslie at Integrated Governance provides a range of board and management services from director training, strategic planning, nominations and election management, marketing services, and leadership training. This is preliminary findings from her research for her upcoming book, Beyond the Blazer: Closing the Gap between Board Leadership Reality and 21st Century Expectations.  

 

This is written for NSW Registered Clubs and the lesson is transferable to other NFPs, clubs or similar organisations.

 

 

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