Building a More Inclusive Board
As boards transition from primarily focusing on representation to inclusion, there are several actions they can take to promote progress.
Add inclusion into the board charter.
Diverse representation has been added into many board charters. By adding inclusion as well, you can ensure you are reaping the benefits of bringing a diverse boardroom together. Even the process of reviewing the charter will drive important and helpful conversations on building an inclusive culture within the board.
Make intentional changes to board practices to ensure space for every director’s voice on every topic.
Take time to reflect on all the steps that could be taken to allow space for every voice on every agenda item and practice the art of constructive debate that incorporates multiple perspectives. This might require addressing possible biases around tenure on board, prior executive positions held, communication style, and more, that might have created barriers to inclusion. Consider meeting preparation, agenda setting, time management, moderation of discussions, among other modifications.
Ensure onboarding and integration of new directors is robust, which enables them to contribute with confidence right away.
Tailor onboarding to each new director’s needs, based on their level of prior board experience and their industry and functional expertise. Consider specific topics on which a new director’s contribution would be particularly additive and help them prepare for those conversations. Enable relationship building across the board, and intentionally select an experienced director to act as a mentor and sounding board through the first several meetings at a minimum.
Move away from ad hoc decisions on board leadership to intentional succession planning
Long-term, strategic succession plans enable better preparation at an individual and organization level for transitions in leadership. With the increases in diverse representation among directors today, there should be an increase in diverse representation in board leadership in the future if board chairs are intentional about diverse and inclusive succession planning now. Consider the leadership needs for the board over a multi-year time horizon as well as the motivations and ambitions of each director to develop toward leadership roles—from mentorship, to apprenticeship, to rotation in committee leadership roles, to chairing the board. Build development and succession plans that are reviewed on a regular basis, embedding diverse representation goals into the strategy and plans.