It’s time to spice things up

By Darya Rusanova on 30. October 2018

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You’re in the kitchen about to cook. You’ve got five ingredients laid out in front of you. Five of the most flavoursome, organic, top-quality ingredients. You start slicing, dicing and grating. You blend a bit of this, with a bit of that. You sauté one thing with another. Then you mix it all together and pop it in the oven.

You plate up, sit down and taste the first forkful. It’s more cordon bleugh than cordon bleu. How could it have gone so wrong, when it started so right? Well because good ingredients don’t necessarily equate to a good meal. It’s how they fuse together. And the same applies to a board.

You could have the best business minds in the world together on one board. We’re talking Gates, Sandberg, Bezos, executives who are at the top of their game. A ‘dream team’ like this could chop through agendas with lightning speed. Strategise with the sharpness of a knife. They would rise up like a well-made soufflé, right? Not exactly.

Business brilliance doesn’t guarantee board brilliance

Success actually relies less on the who, and more on the how. Just like quality produce, superior talent is just not enough for success. It’s all about the interactions. The cooking method.

Take a look at Google’s Project Aristotle study. After many years, many participants and many millions of pounds, they discovered that ‘psychological safety’ was the key to good dynamics. Members need to be comfortable to share their opinions without fear or rejection. So instead of the board table being dominated by overpowering flavours with loud voices, a space needs to be created where everyone both talks and listens.

And the result? The quiet ‘dark horses’ in the room have their chance to share, individual strengths start to shine through and stuff gets resolved faster and more effectively.

This is where a good chairman comes in useful

They not only need to focus on ticking off an agenda list, but also keep a close eye on the oven. To watch out for any bubbling or burning. To encourage debate, but only the healthy kind. A bit of heat is good if it’s coming from a place of positive intent.

That’s why it’s so important to have diversity when it comes to members. Not every mind thinks in the same way. You want people who will question and query and challenge. It encourages creativity and innovation. Plus, the more talents, skills and experiences you can throw at a problem, the quicker it can be resolved.

So if you’re looking for a Michelin-star board, you need a blend of ingredients that complement each other. Strong dynamics produce strong dishes. And like with any recipe, don’t be afraid to experiment. Add some spice and try new methods, you never know what magic could emerge.

Download our eBook highlighting best practices for a healthy board dynamic.

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