After an intense year of crisis management for many boards, the question now is what next?
How do boards set strategic priorities that balance competing priorities of pandemic recovery, board diversity and inclusion, and more, at a moment when organization leaders may be burning out?
We hosted an expert panel with leaders of Board Ready Women, Point West Credit Union – a financial organization with inclusive community in its declared beliefs, and Aprio’s CEO Ian Warner to address how to best manage your board right now.
Watch the recorded webinar to ready your board for 2021 and beyond.
Heather Culbert – Never waste a good crisis. This is our opportunity to kind of look at what we observed as strengths on our boards and with organizations we serve and what we struggled over and really evaluate the readiness of the organization for future crises, and for better governance practices and oversight.
Amy Nelson – We’re looking forward several generations and asking, how do we want to operate differently so that by the time the board the management team has left and we have regeneration, how will the mission carry forward with an impact?
Heather Culbert – I’m very worried about executive employees because everyone’s had to go through various adaptations and a lot of work in order to keep organizations and teams moving forward. So what can boards do? We’re really encouraging our executive to take a break because, as we come out of this there is a new set of objectives we’ll be pushing hard for to rebuild.
Ian Warner – It’s been a testament to the strength of management teams and boards going through this, to adapt, step up, and maybe even work better together. There’s been much higher emphasis on strong communication through the last year. I hope some of that effective information exchange and dialog continues, as we all move past crisis mode.
Amy Nelson – Right now our board is asking… How are we going to represent our diverse community and be inclusive in our practices and in our conversations and in our tone, so that our members still feel safe and welcomed? It’s not just a strategic planning conversation anymore you’re having these conversations on a monthly basis. Twenty-twenty was a pivotal year to tackle all of these hard topics at the same time, and we’re 15 years into operating with inclusion as a core value.
Heather Culbert – On traditional boards, one of the ways we started was just by having the board chair talk with members one-on-one about their perspectives. Alongside we did a simple survey just to see where directors were at – asking what their thinking, how long will this take, what’s the value, how do you want to be a part of this? Because you do need alignment to move forward.
Amy Nelson – You need someone to own this. To take accountability for this. Typically it’s the board chair because that sets the right tone at the top right. With support from the governance chair that will help you kind of create that progression.
Heather Culbert – You need to bring data, including peer group data, to the board table and talk about how diversity best practices can impact performance positively and opportunity missed if you don’t make change. Discuss these with board members transparently – make it less personal and more about the board’s role to support optimal performance and strong governance policy.
Ian Warner – Every CEO wants to be able to answer every single question and to have considered every risk. The tendency in the past has been to create boards, where members are just like the CEO. When you do that, board members ask familiar questions. The benefit of diversity is the diversity of questions asked, illuminating risk and taking leadership teams down new strategic avenues. So the opportunity for boards is to think about the vital perspectives needed – it’s not about “well you know we need to put a woman in that position,” it’s a board-wide understanding and commitment that board diversity is an essential attribute to best compete.
Amy Nelson – We can all be daunted by long journeys. Set milestones two years, three years out. Make the progress tangible, even though it takes time. Show it’s something that’s going to be happening within the tenure of the boards and they can have certainty of contributing.
Ian Warner – Sometimes thinking somewhat outside of the box is needed. For example, if you’ve got the mindset “we have term limits, we can’t make any changes until those term limits expire,” or “we have a traditional board and this is the way it is.” That’s too narrow of a mindset. If you’re intentional, you can find ways – perhaps amend term limits or expand size of board to keep key skill sets and add new ones, and new perspectives. Share data on the qualified, diverse candidates available to dispel the myth it’s impossible. It’s not overly onerous to change these policies or perspectives, it may just feel like it.
Heather Culbert – Business recovery, as we all know, is not business as usual. Boards need to see this moment as an opportunity to review strategic priorities, to review governance and diversity principles. So what’s the transition plan necessary? Don’t overcomplicate it, get going.
Heather Culbert founded Board Ready Women to improve the female ratios on boards in Alberta, Canada and is an advocate for working together to develop better gender diversity and inclusion in boardrooms everywhere. As an experienced board member across corporate, public and nonprofit boards, Ms. Culbert has seen the value diverse board membership can generate in multiple sectors. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Export Development Canada (EDC) and was recently appointed as a director of The Fraser Institute, one of the top 15 think-tanks in the world. She is also a director on the Board of publicly-traded Whitecap Resources Inc. and the Board Chair of the non-profit United Way World Leadership Council. Prior to her professional Board career, Ms. Culbert held senior leadership roles in the oil and gas sector.
Amy Nelson is CEO of $105-million Point West Credit Union, based in Portland, Oregon, with a focus for serving microenterprise businesses, immigrants, minority and unbanked consumers. During the Great Recession, Ms. Nelson played a pivotal leadership role in bringing Point West back from the brink of closure, and transforming it to a thriving, values-driven cooperative serving highly underserved markets today. During that time she championed a number of redefining milestones: Point West became community-chartered, Low Income Designated, and a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), with 61% of its lending activity serving low income populations. Beyond Point West, Ms. Nelson is a Board Member with Metropolitan Family Service, and has been a Financial Literacy Educator to youth since 2007 via non-profit Financial Beginnings.
Ian Warner is Chief Operating Officer of Canada’s leading board portal to provide good governance to all. Aprio technology is chosen by financial institutions, crown corporations, first nations, nonprofit and public companies to achieve transparent communication, efficient decisions and well-run board meetings. An accomplished executive, Mr. Warner has a career of experience both participating in and chairing boards. He is currently on the Board of Directors for Ocean Wise Conservation Organization and is past Chair of the BC Technology Industry Association’s SaaS C-Council and a past board member of the University of British Columbia Alumni Association. Prior to Aprio, Ian was chief operating officer of Vancity, Canada’s largest credit union. Mr. Warner holds a degree in Finance from the University of British Columbia and certification from Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.
Florian Mukuta directs Marketing at Aprio and will moderate the panel discussion. After pursuing a BBA in Marketing at ISEE Business School in Paris, France, Mr. Mukuta spent the last 9+ years leading marketing efforts in B2B and B2C environments for companies in various industries such as financial services, tourism, and telecommunications. He strongly believes that the most effective form of marketing is customer-centric and uses expertise to pursue Aprio’s mission of extending good governance to all. Seeking the ultimate career opportunity, Mr. Mukuta moved his family from Paris, France to Canada.
If you have any questions on how board portal technology can best support your pandemic recovery and diversity, please reach out to us at Aprio.
Suite 1090, 1090 West Georgia Street
Vancouver BC Canada V6E 3V7
Suite 450, 1733 H Street
Blaine Washington USA 98230