Agility and Compassion: Two Pillars for Boards in the Post Pandemic Era!
CS Divija Dave
10 Mar 2021
“A wise Board accumulates rational wisdom, embraces unconventional wisdom and sharpens system wisdom.”
- Pearl Zhu
It is said that the worst of the time brings out the best in people and surely this happens with organizations as well. Leading in a crisis is never easy, but hard times leave the most indelible imprints on a company’s identity. Credibility is a both essential and fragile element of effective leadership. Authentic actions will demonstrate to employees a company’s genuine commitment towards a social purpose.
The pandemic has forced Boards to think and act in an entrepreneurial spirit. As we begin to operate within the ‘new normal’, Boards are beginning to think about what worked well for them during the pandemic and should be retained for the future. With vast responsibilities, it was often difficult for leaders to adopt entrepreneurial mindset and make bold choices to implement the impossible. However, COVID has brought a huge cultural shift in the mindset of boards to practically implement the impossible for the survival of the company.
The pre-pandemic situation was more inclined towards ticking the box kind of approach whereas the post pandemic era has forced boards to unleash all their energy and agility to keep the company alive and more importantly, keep their stakeholders satisfied. It wouldn’t be incorrect if we say that once the drive to demonstrate innovation was only inclined towards maintenance of the ‘status quo’, and now the same has become one of the most efficient techniques to the survival.
In the post pandemic era, where the world is still functioning virtually, it is vital for the Boards and Senior Management to understand the stakeholder needs. On one hand the stakeholders need empathy from the management in the current situation while on the other hand they are also looking at leaders who would communicate with them the actual facts without sugar-coating. Here is where the role of Board and the Senior Management come in the picture when they are able to lead by example as well as manage their teams in a far better way, especially in the post COVID scenario.
a. Unleashing Energy and Agility
Interestingly, in the pre COVID scenario, when companies were following ticking the box approach to complete any particular task, Boards used to take months to take decisions and mull over the agenda discussed in Boardrooms. However, the scene simple changed by 360 degrees when Boards suddenly became quick decision makers and drivers of innovation in the Company to sustain their businesses. The enormous level of agility and energy channelised in the right direction helped Boards to prioritize their tasks rather than pushing them to future board meetings. With the sudden change in the mindset and great level of situational adaptability of Boards and the Senior Management, entire mainstream businesses were able to operate online and that too with greater efficiency.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned scenario was witnessed only in few companies. Still a larger chunk of organizations is struggling the manage their day-to-day operations and channelise their energies to prioritize important agendas in the Boardroom. It is now time when Boards should begin to think constructively how they could unleash new opportunities by best utilizing their skillsets and experiences to shape up companies rather than acting as a mere furniture in the boardroom.
b. Design thinking at the Top
Times have gone where traditional ways of carrying businesses ensured long-term sustainability. It doesn’t mean that old business practices should be totally discarded. A better result can be certainly obtained by giving old practices a flavour of new mindset, new thinking and innovation. All of this can happen only if Boards desire to implement changes at the top level and introduce a cultural shift for stakeholders in the post pandemic scenario.
A constructive way of getting into action is to engage with stakeholders at regular levels and make sure that they are an important part of the organization. This will not only make them feel involved but also enable them to think openly and communicate their ideas to the management. This will in turn help Boards to get a better perspective on expectations and make better decisions plus introduce appropriate practices to set the tone right.
c. Importance to Performance Evaluation
Boards are considered as wise representatives of companies and having the ‘right Board’ at the top is extremely crucial for every organization. In the pre-pandemic times, terms like performance evaluation of Boards or Board evaluation were considered merely as activities which come under ‘good to have’ category for companies. Their importance and worth were still in vain when it came to understand the real essence of the exercise. However, it is high time when it is required to be realized by all companies irrespective of their status to evaluate their Boards and Senior Management at regular intervals because the change that we are talking about has to start from the top. And certainly, this can only be attained if the right Board is sitting at the top to guide the company and its stakeholders. An important exercise like that of Board evaluation should now not be taken as tick the box activity rather should be implemented in the true spirit of law.
d. Establish better Communication Channels
Times have gone where Boards were only concerned about their quarterly profits. This is the time where Boards engagement with the last mile worker is also of great importance. It must be realized that in the pandemic and post pandemic era, numerous stakeholders have lost their jobs and have been laid off. But they now expect a great level of empathy, understanding and comfort from the top management where they could speak out their concerns. In order to introduce best practices from the top, it is now time when Boards should make conscious efforts to reduce the artificial gaps created between them and the stakeholders. This would help companies to implement a better communication channel as well as understand concerns of stakeholders in a better manner.
e. Implement Learnings
Boards are of course the head of the corporate family. But it is important to realize even they can make mistakes and learn their way. It is now time when Boards should open their minds and think of a broader scenario where they could actually act as mentors for their workforce in making them understand the essence of life via their own learnings they have had in the entire journey. This will help Boards to connect well with people and take better decisions at the time of crisis. Also, this activity has a long-lasting effect on the mind of people where they accept the fact that Board members sitting at the top are real human beings who can make mistakes and accept them openly as well.
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