“Pobody’s Nerfect” says a popular bumper sticker; apply that wisdom to how we govern. The beauty of boards is that none of us has absolute knowledge, so we rely on each other to balance and complete our ideas. Recognizing our limitations is critical to building an effective board culture.

This week Jim Brown who wrote The Imperfect Board Member joined us for a conversation to build on our earlier episodes about the board’s role. The Imperfect board member follows David a corporate CEO who struggles in his interactions with his company’s board. Additionally, David recently joined a community organization’s board hoping to offer his skills to improve his neighbourhood. The book follows David’s governance challenges as a new friend Trevor offers insights on how David can be a better CEO and board member.

A key takeaway from the book is to avoid being a lone ranger. As a corporate executive, David has built his career on his ability to get things done. Frustration is his corporate role leads David to charge ahead with planning an initiative for his community organization. After hours of preparation, David presents his plans to his community organization only to find the reception is not what he expected. Trevor helps David understand that he got out ahead of the rest of the team. The community board had not prioritized the issue David was trying to address and did not expect his presentation. Plus, David started putting in place a concrete plan before the board had an opportunity to discuss options. Trevor quips “recommendations are decisions in disguise”. It is essential to ensure there is board buy-in and approval for major new initiatives.

Andrew and I have discussed whether David or Trevor are based on Jim. At first, we thought that Jim was David, a highly competent executive who had learned through trial and error how to govern. After speaking with Jim, based on his kindness, generosity with his time and clear way of explaining governance we think he may be Trevor. Perhaps like Soloveitchik’s (1965) Adam I and Adam II, all board members have a little bit of a struggle between David and Trevor within us that we need to manage.

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