Peter Neal and Andrew Marsh of Experience Bank Group have joined forces for this latest advice column for Northern Insight readers. The topic for this special December and January double edition is on looking forward to 2021 and how to stay positive when looking at your board, its structure, its performance and how to move forward.

Focusing on the Board

Firstly, to be successful in 2021, it is imperative that an organisation focuses immediately on its board structure and role. Too many boards are confusing issues by being too operational and doing the job of the management/executive team.

To be a successful board, the members should be focusing on the business and not working in the business. This can bring difficult conversations if you already have a board, but it will be for the long term good of the organisation. You also need to analyse the skills of the current board – what is missing that you need to be focusing on in the next two years? That might seem like a long timeframe but it is where boards should be focused.

If you don’t have a board, then consider one quickly. You need to do some serious planning, have your vision, assess your skillset need and get appointing. Be focused on those skillsets and don’t be swayed by someone with contacts but no experience, an extensive little black book is great in a consultant, but a true non-executive is an experienced driver to your future.

Quality Discussions – The Difference Between Effectiveness and Efficiency

A good board needs to be clear on the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is simply the processes and timings being well executed. Again, a better measure for the executive team.

Effectiveness is the outcome of the actions of the board. If a board is being run properly you won’t actually feel the outcomes until further down the line as the most impactful decisions will affect the future. If the board isn’t focused on quality conversations about the future then opportunities will be missed.

We would encourage every board to go back and look at ideas that have been previously parked or vetoed with a fresh pair of eyes – in the current climate those propositions might look totally different.

Understand The Spheres of Influence

There are three spheres of influence – the inner one that you control, the middle one that you have some influence over, and the outer one that is outside of your control but that you can contribute to. There is then everything that surrounds it that you can do nothing about, that you cannot control, change or contribute to. Like BREXIT or COVID.

One you have identified what sits where in the spheres you can accept them for what they are, focus your thinking and then you can roll forward with a plan that is a solution despite the challenges.

We often use Edison’s reply when asked how he felt when it took him thousands of failures to create the light bulb – I found thousands of ways of how not to make the light bulb but I only needed one way to succeed. So, for business that means there may well be 15 reasons to not do something but if we have one reason why we should then let’s properly explore it! It’s more a fear of success than failure sometimes.

Technical War Gaming

This is a great tactic that comes from the military and is very powerful when applied to business decisions.

Formulate your vision on where you want the organisation to be. Write it down and formalise it. Then create your plan of attack in theory.

Now put yourself in the future and think about how this plan and vision failed. Put yourselves through all the uncomfortable, awful steps that made your vision not come to fruition. Write these down. Perhaps get multiple views on the possible failures, sometimes those naysayers are perfect here.

Now work out how to avoid or mitigate those reasons, failed actions and pitfalls in getting to your ultimate vision. The result? If you mitigate the reasons and plan them in, not just put them in a risk register, and execute then there is nothing left but to succeed.

Diversity

This is the final and most impactful key to a successful board.

You need as many different perspectives as possible from people that have as many different experiences as possible. Be diverse in conversation topics, in people, in thoughts, break molds and create choices. It isn’t just about ethnicity, or gender, or background, it’s about vision, creativity, peer groups, source of information and using those to open doors and eyes!

Finally, to stay positive it is important that all small wins are celebrated, and that the wellbeing of all members of the team is at the forefront of all actions. Without doubt, a positive 2021 will be driven by that.

Experience Bank Group incorporates The Experience Bank social enterprise company (philanthropic support), along with a commercial venture providing two, symbiotic services – EB Board Level Recruitment and EB High Performing Boards.

With this combination of specialist expertise, the Experience Bank Group is uniquely positioned to help organisations ensure they have not only the right skills in the boardroom but also optimum board performance with higher value creation.

For founding entrepreneurs and small charities, the social enterprise company, The Experience Bank, has a carefully curated network of inspiring, experienced people who can add value to many start-up businesses and small charities, and can match entrepreneurs to non-execs who support businesses to become investment-ready or to successfully achieve the next phase of commercialisation.

5% of all revenue from Experience Bank Group is gifted to The Experience Bank social enterprise to enable more start-ups, early stage businesses, charities and social enterprises access to top notch, non-executive talent.