Board & Leadership Effectiveness - Jay Millen

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4 min readMar 17, 2023
Board & Leadership Effectiveness — Jay Millen

Today I want to change the conversation to board and leadership effectiveness in these turbulent times. While discussion about vision, strategy, and business purpose are always critical in the C Suite and Board room I’ve observed some significant gaps over the pandemic and now emerging into a potential major economic downturn in how boards and senior leadership teams are running the race so to speak.

First, I want to reflect back to 20th century leadership icon Stephen Covey’s principle of sharpen the saw and distill that down a bit more in today’s context. I believe many leadership teams and boards are so intensely focused on what they have to do and the results they need to achieve , and rightly so, that they are letting some individual and team capabilities get deferred or lost at an individual level. The whole person concept is essential especially as we age and remain under intense stress and scrutiny. In breaking down Covey’s sharpen the saw I’m adding a bit of nuance and three essential components:

  1. Mental and intellectual rigor: continuous learning and development of intellectual horsepower and knowledge
  2. Physical health and conditioning: maintaining your physical health and strength at various stages in life to include diet, exercise, and rest
  3. Spiritual reflection and evolution: Regardless of your faith or belief system taking time out to reflect, pray, or meditate to start and end your day even for a few minutes to calm your body and your mind.

If I’m sounding a bit out there to you, don’t give up quite yet. We are all running a marathon in our organizations today, often at a sprinter’s pace. This first session is going to focus on mental and intellectual rigor. In a sense how to exercise and maintain your mental sharpness.

No matter where you are on your journey there are some basic rules of thumb that apply for all of us, especially as continue to age. My hop is that you are already applying a large cross section of these concepts and will pick up maybe one or two additive ideas that help you and your colleagues avoid the military term of “combat fatigue or combat ineffective” — meaning you are still there in person but can’t execute the mission.

  • First : Aa number of studies show that continuous learners and maintainers of intellectual horsepower use very different types of study, reading, and development to continue that growth. Spending even 15–30 minutes a day in recreational reading outside of your daily business inputs can stimulate your thinking and creative mental energy.
  • Second:. Pursuing some type of technically based hobby such as gardening, painting, cooking, or creative writing can “exercise left and right brain functionality that dependent on your work can balance input and also stimulate physical and spiritual angles as well.
  • Third: — Mental and physical fatigue are directly correlated and maintaining that mental “shape” will impact your physical well being and vice versa. Make it a point to take daily timeouts of 10–15 minutes to clear your mind and come to closure, or shelve whatever you are engaged in. Refocus on what you have in front of you and declutter your mind to move on to the next issue to tackle. If you have time take a quick walk, or get up and just move around for a few minutes which will help moving on to the next task to tackle.
  • And Fourth: Write down a couple of bullet point notes on major issues or decisions you are tacking to come back to with a fresh set of eyes if you know you aren’t finished yet. Keeping an inventory of these in a notebook or on your tablet/pc can spur your thinking on how to tackle a problem anew the next time you are dealing with it.

None of these are original thoughts or ideas I’m bringing to you today. They are a set of ideas I’ve gathered in observing some of the most capable leaders in business and government as well as being mentored over the past thirty five years of my career. May you continue to grow and develop in your leadership journey as a board member and senior executive, or as an aspiring future leader at this level.

Connect with Jay Millen on LinkedIn.

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