In this short article, Board coach Dr Sabine Dembkowski highlights three strategies that will help you to increase your impact and leave the right impression.
Strategy 1: Change perspective – put yourself in the shoes of a member of the board
The day of a member of a board in a large corporation is made up of 20 minute slots. It is by far not uncommon that s/he has 20 meetings in the diary in one day. People come, people go.
Paul was at the end of a long day. He could not think of a single person who he talked with who had put her/himself in his shoes and bring something of value to him.
He wanted to explore in his coaching session with me what he could do to educate executives how to best use the time they have with him. For him it was sheer madness that people didn’t use the time with him more wisely.
Paul described to me how he would have never dared to have a meeting with a member of a board and waste it to complain, ask for something and serve excuses for weak results.
He employed a simple trick.
Before any meeting with a member of the executive board he spent a good half hour putting himself in the shoes of the board member. What keeps her/him awake at night? What issues does s/he currently have on the table? Where does his/her pressure come from – investors, competition, suppliers, union …?
Once he was clear in his own head about the real current concerns of the board member he started to craft his key messages.
Strategy 2: Think outputs not inputs
Most clients want to talk about what they have done, how hard it was to get there, what obstacles they had to overcome and how they struggled with the limited resources. Over 80% of their thinking and preparation circles around the input factors and only 20% output i.e. results. Busy board members want the results and achievements, not how you went about doing the job.
Before he was appointed to the executive team, this is how Paul described his actions.
At the start of any project I was involved in I established the baseline. I worked together with other departments to get numbers on the table. At times this was not easy and quite tricky but I became friends with our Controlling guys and was always quite smart in making use of consultants who were running around in our organisation (he laughed and had a twinkle in his eye).
When Paul worked on any project he tracked numbers and at times even created key performance indicators. This way he could always report actual results.
He used the time he had with members of the executive board to talk about the actual results and to communicate clearly how they related to the issues that concerned the executive team member (Strategy 1).
Strategy 3: Communicate concisely
Most board members are quick on their feet and can cut through the chase … they want the essence and not all the waffle. Focus on the key points and take the first two strategies to heart.
Because Paul put himself in the shoes of his board members and knew the numbers he could communicate concisely.
He described that this actually allowed him to get to know the board members as there was always time to talk about sports, holidays and the weekend. He even described a situation where he looked at his watch, saw that he had used just 12 minutes and said, “You know what Sue (name changed), I presented you with all the information, why don´t you just take a little walk instead of listening to me.” He was offering her some extra time in her busy day and managed to put a smile on her face.
Board Diversity Reporting, FRC, September 2018
Female FTSE Board Report, Cranfield University, July 2018