By Lucy P. Marcus
The views expressed are her own.
The high profile appointment of Chelsea Clinton to the board of IAC/InterActiveCorp comes at a time when the individual and collective performance of board directors is being scrutinized more thoroughly and more publicly than ever before. A good board can be rocket fuel or it can be rocks in an organization’s pockets. But what does a new board member need to be active, engaged, and dynamic?
The principles are the same regardless of whether this is somebody’s first or tenth appointment, and their significance does not diminish with every new appointment either. Every boardroom has its own personality, its own cadence, and its own means of getting things done, and there is no way of knowing for sure how that works till you are around the table. But every board deserves the best from each of its members—long-serving and new alike.
The sooner new board directors are comfortable and familiar with the landscape in which their organization operates, with the challenges it confronts, the sooner they can make a meaningful contribution to the organization and help it deal with its current challenges as well as future-proof it.
Equally importantly, new directors need to become comfortable and familiar with the dynamic of the boardroom itself. A boardroom is, after all, a room of people who have to work together toward a common goal. The more comfortable everyone is, the more effective the group can be, so it is worth investing some time and effort into ensuring that new directors hit the ground running.
Trust your first impressions
When I join a board as a new director, my antennae are highly attuned. I take copious notes, and I often refer back to these first impressions and observations to avoid getting complacent and losing independence. These observations are not set in stone, but I’ve found my first instincts worth paying attention to.