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The Director's Manual by William L. Sparks, Peter C. Browning

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Chapter 4Board Culture

  • Understanding Board Culture
  • The Three Elements of Board Culture
  • The Leadership and Board Performance Cycle
  • Transforming Board Culture
  • Chapter Summary and What's Next

Corporate boards, like any other gathered group of business or community leaders, are organized with two key outcomes in mind: to make good decisions and to identify emerging opportunities that will add value to their organization. Unfortunately, this seemingly crystal clear mission and the logical results that one might expect to emerge from such gatherings are often muddled by a whole range of group dynamics and human factors that seriously impact effectiveness and performance. This chapter examines why these human factors frequently derail the efforts of even the best corporate boards and provides research-based techniques that ensure mistakes that stand in the way of corporate boards attempting to accomplish their vital governance role are avoided.

Understanding Board Culture

The term culture was first used by researcher Elliott Jaques in 1951 to describe the unique climate or personality of an organization, or, as Jaques characterized it at the time, “the way things get done around here.”1 We define board culture a little more precisely. For us, board culture is the unique, shared mind-set of a group of directors that dictates norms of engagement, communication, conflict management, and problem-solving processes.

Researchers such as Edgar H. Schein have refined ...

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