Characteristics of an Effective Board

January 24, 2019

Every board has its own culture, and when those dynamics come together, work in the boardroom can be powerful. 

“If you can be on a board where it is well run, then people are going to want to stay,” says Jackie Hunt, Executive Director at Volunteer Manitoba, and Board Connect contact. “If it feels like groundhog’s day where it’s the same thing month to month, folks are going to move on to something else.”

So, what are the characteristics of an effective board? We narrowed down some attributes for you to try and incorporate into your board of directors’ plan. 

Effective boards have directors with a range of specialties and backgrounds. 
Too often, boards consist of directors with similar specialties and backgrounds that lack diversity. Boards tackle complex issues and having a diverse board with multi-faceted experiences enables a better understanding of risks from all angles. “New ideas often require new ways of thinking.” said Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of the Institute of Corporate Directors, in a recent interview with RBC. “It’s diversity-enabled innovation.”

Effective boards strive to create a gender-balanced team.
Canadian boards notoriously lack female representation. Take a look at these stats taken by RBC:

  • about 39% of boards have no women
  • only 11% have three or more females
  • and just 26% of open board seats last year were filled by women

Achieving a gender-balanced board comes with its fair share of difficulties. “Diversity doesn’t happen by accident,” said Katie Telford, Prime Minister Trudeau’s chief of staff, in a recent interview with RBC. “These things have to be intentional. There has to be a plan around it.”

Effective boards have a clearly defined strategic goal and are action-oriented. 
Good boards have lots of debates, but they need to present a unanimous decision and come together to manage conflict – not add to it. Effective boards need to be behind the organization they represent every step of the way, they need to share the organizations’ vision and goals. Having a clearly defined strategic goal will help your board become more action-oriented.

For additional information about boards, please visit the following links from RBC: 

Learn more about building effective boards at our February Luncheon
with Kathleen Taylor, Chair of the Board of RBC
Friday, Feb. 8
​11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Fort Garry Hotel

In the face of disruption, the role of the board is a paradox as it must seek to unleash a culture of innovation while carefully balancing risk.  Strong corporate governance is paramount at a time of increased uncertainty. Come experience a conversation with the first woman to lead the board of a major Canadian Bank – RBC’s Chair of the Board, Kathleen (Katie) Taylor.  Former CEO of Four Seasons Hotels Inc., Katie will take us on a journey exploring the foundational roles culture, purpose, leadership, and diversity each play alongside risk management and innovation in ensuring a thriving and prosperous business community.