Who Should be Members of Your Board?

Otis Baskin
Otis Baskin

Often when working with clients to help them form or revamp a board we are faced with a list of qualifications that are strikingly similar to those of the current CEO:  “a current president/CEO of a business in our industry with size similar to ours”.  Of course the challenge is to find people meeting this description who are not direct competitors.  It is easy to understand why an executive would want to have similar experience on her/his board.  If the board understands the challenges and opportunities of a business it takes less time to inform them before a meaningful discussion. 

However, when any group is composed of individuals who are too much alike Group Think can set in and diminish innovation.  Group Think occurs when people are too comfortable with each other or too respectful of each other to challenge ideas.  A “rubber stamp” board cannot test ideas in the crucible of critical analysis.  Sometimes the very differences that cause us to spend extra time explaining an issue before we get to the solutions stage of a discussion can produce the most creative outcomes.  Having intelligent, committed board members from different backgrounds can provide new ways of thinking about old problems.  For example, the president of a company from a different industry whose customers, suppliers, or distribution channels are similar to yours may help you find alternatives your competitors don’t see.  Different points of view help us to look at problems from a fresh perspective and can break the logjam of “we tried that before”.

One thought on “Who Should be Members of Your Board?”

  1. Otis:

    When I was recruiting for the Board in our family business, I aspired to attract CEO’s or leaders from businesses larger than ours who might have dealt with problems in their business that we would face as we grew our business. I was also interested in perspectives that would help us: could I attract someone from a company that was a customer, supplier, or in an industry that was similar but not the same as our industry. While our bankers, attorneys or accountants were not on our Board, we did have Board Members that came from those backgrounds. Preparing for the meetings and participating in the meetings brought discipline to our thinking and accountability for me as CEO and for our senior managers.

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