One way to help with onboarding a new director is to focus not just on skills but also on cultural fit—how well will the new director fit with the way their fellow directors work.
New directors and sitting directors can become more effective and influential by examining these three ideas:
1) The difference between the actual role and the expectations the new director has about the role.
During the interviews, the best side of the board, the company, and the culture are presented. On occasion, I have seen directors or C-suite executives be frank about some of their “warts,” but this would be the exception not the rule.
Directors can reduce feelings of confusion or surprise by allowing for some fluidity in perceptions for a period of time before becoming cemented in an understanding of how the board works. This is especially true with the culture of the board. Watch for the following:
- What is highly visible – the systems and processes
- What is partly visible – the responsibility and the roles
- What is observable – relationships and the influence that each director has on the board.
2) Someone on the board will not be happy about the new appointee.
Some boards are unanimous in a yes vote, but this is not always the case. In order to avoid flying blind, it can be helpful to know who may still have lingering questions about the new director and their background.
If the new director had a sponsor that made an introduction to the board, watch for who may have negative feelings about the sponsoring director or C-suite executive. Other directors may associate the new director in a less than favorable light due to the standing relationship.
3) There were unspoken reasons for the recruitment of a new director to the board.
If possible, discover what the nuances are. Are the board members predominantly conformist driven (wanting another member much like the other directors)? Or, are they complementary (wanting a new perspective)? If neither of these, what are they?
Overall, it is advisable to build relationships with other directors. Ultimately, this will provide access to more information and helpful insights. Many boards do not have onboarding programs, and some have just an ad hoc approach. Both approaches make it very important for a new director to take time and pay attention to the cultural fit.