Yesterday evening I facilitated a discussion among a group of leading non-executive directors as to how they can best help their executive colleagues drive long-term performance, particularly during difficult times.

What quickly became clear is that there is no one best way, and that the non-executive director must be able to flex his or her style and approach to fit the organisation, the executive team and the wider environment.

That said, there were some general areas where the Board can add real value:

  1. Keeping calm in a crisis. Board members have been there, seen it, done it and got the t-shirt, and their ability to keep their head when everyone else is losing theirs is genuinely valued by executive directors.
  2. Raising your executive team’s sights. When times are tough it can mean ‘every man on deck’, and many CEOs and leadership teams need to be helped to take a step back, raise their heads and appreciate the bigger picture. Non-executive directors can play that role.
  3. Ensuring effective prioritisation. You can’t chase two hares and although the leadership team may have identified 20 or 30 opportunities to drive performance, are they focused on the three best opportunities?
  4. Keeping eyes on the prize. As they’re not distracted by day-to-day operations Board members can ensure that sufficient management attention is paid to the agreed strategic priorities and signed-off agenda.
  5. Using your own network. One of the non-executive director’s biggest assets is his or her network, and there are likely to be many contacts in your diary that could be of benefit to your company, particularly if management is considering new areas of growth.

Which of these areas have added value in your company, and how do you think Board members should best help management teams to drive long-term performance?

© Stuart Cross 2012. All rights reserved.