Qualities of a good board member
There are certain qualities that are expected from a board member. — file picture

Qualities of a good board member

Taurai Changwa
Business Forum
Strategic decisions that are designed to take the organisation forward should be the key focus and objective of any board.

Being appointed to a board does not mean getting the latest iPad, top-of-the-range vehicle and getting hefty perks and benefits.
It simply means shareholders have entrusted you to steer the company to success. Fiduciary duties do not entail milking the company dry.
Equally, boardrooms are not war rooms where board members trade harsh words and pursue petty agendas that are counterproductive.
Strategic decisions that are designed to take the organisation forward should be the key focus and objective of any board.
It might seem as if local boardrooms are dominated by greedy, selfish board members who have parochial agendas.
One is persuaded to think that they do not have the organisations that they serve at heart.
Zimbabwe needs board members who have the energy to take companies further. Shareholders also have a responsibility to seriously appraise the work of board members.
If the company is serially producing bad results, then board members are culpable to a significant degree. It might be a sign that board members are not good enough for the job.
Excuses are not welcome at times.
Granted, in every business there are challenges, but it is surely pointless to endlessly discuss challenges that the organisation might be facing.
Instead, much of the time must be spent discussing solutions.
Blaming fellow board members is also foolish and counterproductive. If one board member fails, then the whole board has failed.
Members have to be passionate about their work.
In cases where board members do not care deeply about the purpose and value of the organisation, their value to the organisation diminishes.
Often, a good board member approaches responsibilities in the spirit of a director on behalf of the members and the industry at large.
They are not in it for the money; their only incentive is the sense of fulfillment they get from supporting a worthy cause, one they feel strongly connected to.
Furthermore, they maintain loyalty to the organisation, with a higher loyalty to the members; welcome information and best available advice, but reserve the right to arrive at decisions based on own judgement; honour commitments; support board decisions (internally and externally) even when they may disagree with the majority opinion; and promote unity within the organisation.
A good board member also offers opinions honestly and in a constructive way, respect the opinions of others, avoid any possibility of conflict of interest, understands legal and fiduciary responsibilities, gives respect and consideration to other board members and the board chairperson, listens as an ally, focuses on issues, not personalities offers constructive feedback, asks informed questions, clearly understands her/his responsibilities, is willing to actively serve on at least one committee and comes to meetings on time and is also well prepared and actively participates.
Time is of great importance when one decides to be in a certain board.
Many people will agree to serve as a board member without realising how much of their time it will consume.
Aside from regular meetings, board members are expected to also take charge of at least one committee or project.
That’s why, according to BoardSource.org, each board member must be able to make “a serious commitment to participate actively in the work of their committees”.
If a candidate isn’t willing to treat the position like a true job, is stretched too thin, or is only agreeing to serve to fluff out their resume, don’t choose that person.
Zimbabwe is also infamous for having people who sit on multiple boards at the same time.
But there are only 24 hours in a day and hence the reason why some tasks take too long to be completed.
International experts often argue that board members have to be ready not only to take on tough issues and work through conflicts, but they also need to be respectful and inspire collaboration.
These qualities need to be in balance, and you will need to find individuals that are comfortable being in healthy conflicts with others, but who can ultimately achieve resolutions and keep working relationships intact.
Your board should ultimately be made up of people with complementary qualities.
Not every individual will have the above traits, but if you build a diverse team of people in your organisation, it will have a robust resource that will lead it to success.
As one reflects on the issues mentioned above, it is incumbent for them to ask themselves what value they bring into an organisation.
Circumstances now demand that there be a shift toward results-oriented methods.
Simply put, board members must stop blaming the environment and focus on bettering the organisation.

Taurai Changwa is an articled accountant with vast experience in tax, accounting, audit and corporate governance issues. He is the MD of SAFIC Consultancy and writes in his personal capacity. Feeback: [email protected], Facebook page SAFIC Consultancy and WhatsApp +263772374784

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