entrwefBy: Carl Bates

HIGH-PERFORMING companies require highly effective boards that are focused on ethical company growth. In Africa it is no different, and they are becoming increasingly important as international investors seek companies worthy of their investment dollar. Boards of such companies depend upon each director being able to maximize his or her contribution, as well as the board as a whole being able to function as an engaged team that maximizes its collective contribution. Maximized contribution leads to maximized return – for directors and for the company.
• Understanding ‘natural energy’
In order to maximize return each director should be in their flow – or function through what is referred to as ‘natural energy’. Your natural energy reflects the way that you naturally think and operate. It is most easily observed in critical moments, when you will always respond in a particular way. A critical or defining moment is usually a brief and intense pressure or turning point, in which the decision you make or the action you take, dramatically impacts your journey, either positively or negatively. By default, you will respond in that moment from your natural energy as your instinct kicks in. However, your ability to respond effectively and in alignment with your natural flow can be developed through ongoing learning and development.
Some people are naturally innovative and intuitively drive concepts, projects and activity forward, despite all odds. Other people wait for the right time to make a decision or take action based on their sense of the market, team or clients. Some people will always be focused on who is affected by a decision and who they can connect with, whereas others will naturally think of the process or the system first and how that should operate. The concept of natural energy acknowledges that different people will naturally be more effective at different aspects of a business’ activities.
• Balancing your board
The same is true in the board room – a director whose natural energy is focused on detail and analysis could undermine a blue-sky strategy session by firing off too many questions on ‘the how’. A company that requires a firm hand on implementation, quality and controls could be challenged by a visionary director who wants to always ‘change things up’. Good expertise is essential, yet in a critical moment natural energy will always prevail.
We use a profiling tool that very accurately positions a person as one of eight types or natural energy profiles. During the director selection and appointment process, we consider the balance of natural energy across the board to ensure that the board as a whole is as diverse as possible and would likely have a balanced perspective to its debate and decision-making.
When there is a balance of natural energy around a board room table, there is a much more effective flow, and in turn results, for the directors and the business as a whole. A company that is focused on maximizing its growth opportunities should commit to consciously understanding and bringing into balance the natural energies of its board. No matter which profiling methodology is chosen, its consistent application is critical and increases in value over time as your understanding as an organization deepens.
• Maximizing your contribution
In order to maximize your contribution as a director, there are two considerations. Firstly, in understanding your own profile you can develop a deeper awareness of your own drives and your unique, value-adding perspective. With emotional intelligence you can then consciously focus your point of view in a positive and constructive manner.
Secondly, in understanding the profiles of your fellow directors, there is a powerful opportunity to support them to master their engagement and contribution. As an example, if one of your directors is what we refer to as a ‘Catalyst’, who accelerates changes, you would engage them on ‘what’ or ‘action’ questions, whereas from a ‘Coach’ director you would ask for their input on ‘who’ questions or team considerations. It works both ways – self-development and the development of others.
Identifying, creating and sustaining your value, which you then leverage, is the cornerstone of working effectively with your natural energy. It requires that you have a deep understanding of your natural energy and that you actively seek to utilize that natural energy to create, build and deliver value – for yourself, for your board and the company as a whole.
If you are seeking to grow your African business, or find international partners who will support your enterprise, understanding the natural energy of your board, or the board that you will put in place, may just be your next critical step.

YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) is a not-for-profit, global network of young chief executives connected through the shared mission of becoming Better Leaders Through Education and Idea Exchange™. For more information, visit www.ypo.org.

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