11 Board Derailers

Written by on February 16, 2015 in Board Effectiveness with 1 Comment

Upland Board Bloke - Eleven Board DerailersThe Eleven Board Derailers

A board can only function collectively.  A good board is a group of well-informed independent thinkers working their way to a consensus decision they can all live with.

This is hard, and it takes more than good intentions.  Knowing where some of the traps and pitfalls lie can help directors avoid them.

One trap here is groupthink, where the board falls into placing consensus above questioning, or fails to notice its own blind spots.  One of the best defences against this is board diversity, not just of gender but of background, education, life experience and culture.

Another trap is a series of individual habits that have been collectively identified as “board derailers”.  They are behaviours which, in moderation, can be very positive, but which taken too far can paralyse or undermine a board.  They are individual strengths so fiercely clasped and over-used that they become weaknesses.  In the boardroom, they “derail” the work of the board.

Eleven of these board derailers have been identified in organisational psychology work on the Hogan Development Survey.

Here’s a summary:

If you are inclined to be: You may derail your board by being:
Passionate, energetic Excitable, impulsive, impatient, a non-listener.
Sceptical, shrewd, good at finding the hidden downside Cynical, mistrustful.
Cautious, careful, prudent, thorough Paralysed by risk-aversion, unwilling to commit to action.
Reserved, calm, independent Disconnected, disengaged, aloof.
Agreeable but inclined to reserve judgement, savvy Covertly resistant, not committed, passive.
Bold, confident, assertive Stubborn, arrogant, quick to blame others.
Charming, jocular, light-hearted Irreverent, a time-waster, mischievous.
Colourful, outgoing, animated Over-the-top, overwhelming, a time-hog.
Imaginative, innovative, creative Off-the-wall, unrealistic, impractical, eccentric.
Diligent, detail-oriented, hardworking A perfectionist, too demanding, stuck in the small stuff.
Dutiful, supportive, loyal Deferential, a yay-sayer.

Tough, isn’t it?  I recognise some of my own behaviours here, do you?  We’ll need to remember that the behaviour is not the person, and that habits can change.  Also that each of these is good in moderation – it’s the excess or over-reliance on them that derails things.

The best defence against derailer behaviours is self-knowledge and self-management.  These are vital director skills anyway.  It can be very difficult to turn that level of insight and discipline onto ourselves, but that’s what it takes to be a good director.

If your board is getting derailed, it can be very helpful to include these habits (or some of them) in a board self-evaluation process.

Other Upland Consulting “Board Bloke” Resources

You might find this a helpful antidote:
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Directors

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