November 22, 2022

Board Diversity: Welcoming New Board Members

Liz recently blogged about how the director onboarding process is evolving. This article from Nasdaq’s Center for Board Excellence focuses on a discrete aspect of the onboarding process – welcoming diverse directors to the board. One of the realities about adding new directors with different backgrounds and life experiences is that their addition will alter the board’s group dynamics.

That’s a feature of a more diverse board, not a bug, but the article points out that it creates challenges that need to be addressed in order to ensure the board works well together while welcoming new members with different experiences and expertise. This excerpt discusses ways to teach the culture of the boardroom to new directors:

One suggested action is to appoint existing directors to act as a mentor for new directors—a practice already in place at Zoom. According to Janet Napolitano, Former Secretary of Homeland Security and Board Member of Zoom, the company also “arranged a comprehensive series of meetings with different leaders throughout the company to help me understand the company’s organization and various functions.” She found that a lengthy session on how financial information was presented to the board was most useful.

Joanna Coles, Board Member of Sonos, Snap, The Original Bark Company, and Density, explained that for established boards, it may be useful for new directors to talk to other board members and the executive leadership team, while for new boards, it may be useful to understand the skills and strengths of the other board members and where one can be useful. Moreover, for boards with newly appointed members from underrepresented communities, Joanna Coles advised that they onboard two candidates together. She shared, “This is very effective and takes the attention from the diversity, giving them support with each other to ensure they aren’t talked over.”

Other topics covered by the article include how to build consensus among board members on the purpose of board diversity initiatives, how to create space for new perspectives on the board, and how to develop a pipeline of diverse board talent.

John Jenkins