Read this if you shudder at the idea of inviting an employee to the board meeting.

Our ideas of company board meetings are heavily dictated by what we see in popular culture: Large, opulent conference rooms; men and women smartly dressed in suits; and heated arguments on mute because you’re always outside the soundproof glass walls of the board room. The business of the board has always been a well-guarded secret that comes into public scrutiny only when there’s a corporate disaster.

In fact, employees in most organizations never get the chance to personally meet or interact with board members; and, they often believe the decisions that affect them are taken by people who don’t know them or care about their opinions. In reality, a very negligible percentage of an organization’s employees really understand the rationale behind the strategic decisions made by the top-brass leadership.

The conventional demarcation between the people who strategize and those who execute those strategies isn’t the best recipe for employee engagement. When people don’t really understand or connect with the strategies you propose to them, it leads to poor execution, especially on the frontlines, and defeats even the best among strategies.  

An Intern Among Board Members

Danilo Serafini, who now works in the Sales Department, was an intern when Semco first introduced this practice. Although he was just an intern, he decided to give it a shot and applied to be on the board once. His application was approved and when he entered the board meeting, he recalls being really intimidated.

The enormity of the moment - an intern attending a board meeting - was just dawning upon him and he wasn’t feeling very confident. But, as the meeting progressed, he began to feel very involved and respected by the rest of the board. Of course, he couldn’t contribute anything to the discussion because he was a young intern who didn’t know much about the company at that point.

However, he remembers that the discussions made a lot of sense and that the directions being proposed as next steps were quite solid. So, even though he didn’t have a lot of experience or understanding of the business, the discussions were still quite accessible and it wasn’t difficult for him to keep up with it.

Changing Skeptics Into Believers

The next case study also involves someone who didn’t really believe he’d get an opportunity to be on the board. Guilherme Guisson who was in Rio de Janeiro, applied to be a part of the board meeting just out of curiosity. And, he was quite taken aback when he received an email with details of his trip to São Paulo - where the board meeting was scheduled to take place.

A simple salesman, Guilherme Guisson knew he didn’t have any strategic contribution to make during his time on the board. However, what was really important was the message he took back to his team and the confirmation that this was really happening.

That was a 100 times more valuable to the company than any strategic contribution he could have made. By being on the board once, he’d helped prove to the whole organization that the management at Semco was really walking the talk.

Trust Begets More Trust

Imagine the kind of engagement employees will feel, if they’re made a part of the strategy creation. When people, regardless of their place on the hierarchy or their experience, are encouraged to think about the company’s next steps, it makes them feel like they’re part of the action.

But above everything else, inviting any employee to occupy a seat on the board sends out a very powerful message to the entire organization: That the leadership has nothing to hide; and, that they want to be transparent and reduce the power distance between management and employees. It would also be a great opportunity to make employees who’re usually out on the field, feel included and important.

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