Society is looking forward to reconnecting: less social distancing and more face-to-face; less Zoom and more good old fashioned conversation. The same is true for business and for Boards. While Boards transitioned astonishingly quickly to virtual Board Meetings and have broadly speaking continued to function well over the past 13 months, there is understandable appetite to meet again in person.
In our recent Board Evaluations Fidelio has seen a clear focus on the Board calendar and the future of the Board Meeting.
THE NEED TO MEET
A Board has collective accountability and responsibility and is faced with often complex and difficult judgements. Therefore, it is extremely important that the group of individual Board Members work as effectively together as possible and have a good sense of where other Board Members are coming from in their approach to strategy, risk and providing challenge. Virtual Board Meetings deprive Board Members of eye contact, body language and the unstructured discussion which plays such an important role in horizon scanning and interpreting emergent risk.
In particular for new Board Members who have been appointed in the past year, it will be invaluable to meet face to face. This is part of the social glue that enables Boards to perform their very demanding role.
DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY
But Fidelio sees that the majority of Chairs are also keen to learn from the past 12 months. There have been benefits in terms of efficient use of time; some decision-making has become more streamlined; and some Board Members have found it easier to contribute to what necessarily becomes a very structured discussion.
There is obviously a balance, and the Chair will want to ensure that key Board Meetings which require significant judgement and deliberation are face to face. Equally strategy sessions very much need the open discussion that virtual platforms find more difficult to support. But in the course of the Board calendar there are some Board Meetings and certainly a number of Committee Meetings that can be held virtually. Obviously for regulated Boards it will be important to satisfy the regulator that good governance is being observed, but the regulator too has operated remotely, and is also subject to NetZero considerations.
Indeed, climate change comes into play, as do ongoing pandemic restrictions. We are certainly seeing international Boards think very carefully about flying Board Members from across the globe to Board and Committee Meetings, some of which could be held remotely.
Over the past year AGMs have been held remotely, Board appointments have been made remotely, difficult decisions relating to furlough and dividends for example have been taken remotely, and Evaluations have been conducted remotely.
Getting the blend of remote and in-person time in the Board calendar will require judgment and probably some experiment. Getting it right is a clear opportunity to increase Board effectiveness.
Please click here for Fidelio’s Crib Sheet ‘Planning the Board Calendar’.
To learn more about Fidelio and our contribution to building better Boards through Search, Evaluation and Development, please contact Gillian Karran-Cumberlege at firstname.lastname@example.org.