Covid Q&A Series: Denise Kuprionis | Women in the Boardroom

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Covid Q&A Series: Denise Kuprionis

Writers at Women In The Boardroom had the opportunity to sit down (virtually that is) with board service and board leadership experts to talk about the Coronavirus pandemic. We wanted to learn more about the key ideas and strategies we should be thinking about as prospective and sitting board members and how the current crisis will impact how boards operate moving forward.

This week’s expert is Denise Kuprionis who founded The Governance Solutions Group (GSG), as a way to share her 25+ years’ experience inside the corporate boardroom.  Her unique sense of board dynamics enables collaboration and consensus. Denise is a former officer and member of the senior management team of a publicly traded media company where her extensive successes were a result of effectively leading and adapting during transformative times. Through GSG’s board advisory practice, Denise shares a practical understanding of how boards work and offers tips on how to adapt good governance process to a client’s unique company.  She has been in public, private and nonprofit boardrooms and offers an independent perspective that helps directors address the evolving list of board governance concerns.  She helps reenergize boards through a participatory board review process.Clients include public, private and nonprofit company boards; and private company owners considering establishing their first advisory board or family council.

What do you think are the most desired leadership skills, attitudes and behaviors that board members should be exhibiting during the covid-19 crisis?

This is always true, but even more important today – directors must, in a constructive way, use their skills and expertise to challenge management. Their independence and different perspectives are especially valuable in this time of crisis. Boards are meeting more often right now, although virtually, which requires directors to be more responsive and flexible with their schedules. CEOs must seek board input and keep directors advised; directors must resist the temptation to send their CEOs hourly emails.

What governance and oversight areas should boards be most focused on in the short term in wake of the covid-19 crisis?

While we are in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, when legislative and regulatory mandates change almost hourly, normal board oversight is complicated. Obviously, short-term thinking around employee and customer safety and health comes first. That said, directors must also be discussing with management longer-term strategies.

When and how do you think Boards should be interacting with crisis management teams?

This will vary among companies. For some boards, appointing an ad hoc crisis management committee, that includes members of the board and the management team, is necessary. Whether or not directors are on the company’s crisis management team, it is important that the CEO keep the board up to date on operations. This is a time for clear communications and transparency among board members, among management and the board, and among management and stakeholders.

How should Boards be preparing now from a fiduciary, risk and impact perspective for a post covid-19?

Again, this will vary by company. Certainly, there is a lot of short-term planning that must go on, but the board must be a leader in helping to balance short term decision making with longer-term planning. Directors must talk with management about the company’s recovery plan and what business might be like in six months (which could be considered long-term these days), in one year, in two years. Consideration should be given to best-case and worst-case scenarios; and include a projected analysis of the risks the company’s stakeholders are facing.

How should boards reflect on the performance of their board members during the covid-19 crisis and what implications might that have for boards in the future?

While it might be tempting to ignore board governance fundamentals – don’t do it.  While board engagement is likely different today than it was two months ago, directors must ensure the company stays on the high road and does the right thing.  Board governance is the framework directors use to make decisions, determine corporate direction and performance expectations. As we debrief over this crisis (hopefully soon), it’s likely the board will modify its monitoring tools and will identify opportunities to improve board efficiency and effectiveness.

Photo by: Mika Baumeister

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