There are things you can identify about an organization's board right away - expertise, history, connections. Surface-level attributes found in a bio or introduction.
Then there are the things that you won't have any way of knowing until you're several months into working together.
It's the latter that often make or break a board's success - and if you're not careful, can make or break your company.
Personality traits, character. The way an individual communicates. What the person is like when they're frustrated. You won't just inherit their skills and expertise. You'll also inherit who they are. Including all of their quirks (and flaws), their business baggage -- the time they were burned by a vendor. The mistakes that left a mark.
Virtually every CEO and executive knows exactly what I'm talking about. And because the board members are often stakeholders in your organization, they have a louder voice and more say than many individuals you manage.
But there is value in the personalities - not just the people - that reside on your board. The key is to understand where and how. Then use it to your company's advantage.
There will always be somebody with the incredulous eye. The person who manages to find every hole in the story, every angle of doubt. But rather than see The Skeptic as the burden or bottleneck, recognize and leverage them to bulletproof ideas. In fact, anticipate The Skeptic. Be ready to plug the cracks as they're found.
You might find yourself constantly reeling this individual in. Yet The Idealist is exactly who will hop into your corner or see the bigger picture at the moment you need it most. Consider bringing your loftiest goals and ideas to this board member first. If they can see what you see, you might be right on target.
The practical and critical thinker can feel as if they suck out all hope. They're the first to bring everybody back to earth. They always operate from the ground. Listen to The Realist carefully. Unlike The Skeptic, you'll get frank actuality without emotion or doubt. Your clearest picture often sits with this individual.
While The Idealist often sees what, The Creative on your board sees how. What the dots are and how to connect them. The Creative can mirror a runaway train building the track as it goes. But you'll appreciate the tactical framework and ability to create a vision that they bring to the table.
Your Conservative likes to play it safe and keep it cool. The Skeptic doubts and The Realist is clear. But The Conservative understands not to touch the hot stove. Endure their slow, deliberate moves and penchant for caution. Their instincts are often right and it can have real value to your company.
Unlike The Idealist, who sees what's above, The Futurist sees around the corners. They have a natural sense for what is ahead. It can be of immense benefit to trust their vision and judgment, particularly when it comes to market trends and changes on the horizon.
With a talent for creating an argument, The Disputer can feel like a grueling game of tennis. They will appear to dispute for the sake of disputing! But that is exactly what you need when you want to bring a new product to market or make a business decision. Win with this individual and you'll likely win with anyone.
The Disruptor is the person on your board that always seems to find the linchpin and pull it out just as the wheels start rolling. They've got a knack for breaking things - often right when you're sure you're on track. This can also be a talent for rattling markets and infrastructures. Look no further when you need to pick a lock.
It's the chatterbox that talks the most with a tendency to be loud, dynamic and verbose. You and everyone else in the room are well aware when The Spark walks in the door. They're often eccentric, sometimes scattered. A big personality. But they're exactly what you need when you need or want to start a fire.