Every board needs what I call “fresh eyes.” I define it as being able to see things that others do not. Boards acquire fresh eyes when they add outside directors to their board.
They are called outside directors because they are not employees or stakeholders in the company. They are especially beneficial when a board has become static in composition (same people, all internal board members, etc.), and, therefore, have been addressing problems in the same way. Outside directors provide unbiased opinions.
But, only when they follow the following guiding principal…
Board Principal #1: ‘Eyes in, Fingers Out’
There is the board principle I’ve always subscribed to: “eyes in, fingers out.” This means the board function is not to run the company, but to pick the management and set policy.
If the board is micro-managing the company, there is definitely a problem and either you need new management or outside directors with fresh eyes to help the company get back on track. The board’s job is to govern and management’s job is to manage. Here are the right ways outside directors can use their fresh eyes to a board’s advantage.
6 Reasons ‘Fresh Eyes’ Can Help Your Company
- They have different perspective on issues. They aren’t tainted by the existing board’s view on issues and haven’t been part of the politics that have created the issues.
- They have experiences and views from other industries that may have already experienced and solved the problems or issues being discussed. Many times more established industries have already dealt with the challenges faced by newer industries. Outside directors can bring that knowledge to the board to help expedite the creation of effective solutions.
- They have a new network of resources for the board to consult. Outside directors bring a whole new set of contacts and connections that can be leveraged.
- They will ask new and different questions to stimulate the board’s decision-making process. An outside director will ask questions as a way to gain perspective, which will force the existing company to think about its own responses and possibly have “ah-ha” moments related to the situation.
- You need to bring in someone who is not a specialist, but someone who has been involved in all areas of running a business. A board member needs to be able to see all sides of a problem and all the implications it can have. Outside directors are usually highly qualified generalists who know a lot about all aspects of running a business.
- They can bring a new understanding of a subject that the board does not have. Outside directors usually have a specialty (i.e. industry knowledge or skill set) they leverage to educate the boards they join. For example, one of my specialties is data storage and disaster recovery. I help boards understand their responsibilities and their exposure when they do not have a proper plan in place for the company they are guiding with respect to data backup and recovery.
Outside directors bring incredible value with their “fresh eyes.” I believe boards that have not brought somebody new to the organization in the last one to two years run the risk of stalling the growth of the company.
What’s been your experience with boards? Have you seen situations where adding an outsider director with fresh eyes made a measurable difference? I’d love to hear your comments and experiences below.
P.S. – Do you need an Outside Director, Advisory Board Member, Trusted Advisor, or Interim CEO? Someone who can help you see your business and your goals through “Fresh Eyes.” Contact me and I will work with you to look at where you want to go and help you find the best way to get there. Sometimes all it takes is someone with a fresh viewpoint, unencumbered by company politics or culture to help find the right solution.
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