Is Katharine Hepburn the ideal board member?

July 16, 2007

I frequently work with boards of directors and management committees wanting to take time out to review where they are and where they are going. Sometimes this involves organising and facilitating “retreats” or “away days”. A recurring theme is often that of board composition – Who do we need? What skill base are we looking for? Do we need to think of retiring and asking others to step in etc? When it gets down to thinking about real people groups can often get stuck. Loyalties, allegiances, politics and favouritism sometimes get in the way of the task at hand.
Increasingly I’m using other methodologies for getting at what’s needed and a favourite technique of mine is the fantasy board game. In this, each person picks a person – real or imagined, alive or dead to place on the board. It’s a fun brainstorming session and the more it is played the wilder the suggestions get (and you can tell a lot about the group by whom they suggest). It’s easier to pick a fantasy person than name someone you might know in a personal capacity because it removes the emotional awkwardness and allegiance difficulties. I then do an exercise with people about why they picked the person they did – and the list of attributes and qualities simply flows! We then have a list of all of the skills and qualities needed to populate the board that will look to the future and it’s not a difficult task at this point to compare that list with the skill base of people currently sitting on the board. Augmenting, changing or moving around tends to be a much more l”ogical” task once the “illogical” one of picking fantasy people has been completed.
There’s a lot to be said for playfullness in consulting – I really enjoy these sessions, and for what it’s worth Katharine Hepburn is always on my list. Why? She’s independent, sassy, not afraid to call it as she sees it and can stand up to Humphrey Bogart in a boat while at the time being a four time Academy Award winner and remaining fabulously feminine. Now I wonder what that says about me eh?
Photo courtesy of
and thanks to Anecdote for the archives picture idea

6 People reacted on this

  1. That’s a good technique. That’s a fine way of enabling people to open up their mind rather than being distracted by the implications.
    Thank you for that. I think I might try that board game myself.

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