Streamlined communication and collaboration are two of the most fundamental challenges for many boards. Executive leadership coach Mike Donahue is no stranger to these issues, having experienced them with his business peer groups. With almost 20 years of experience working with business leaders, Mike has seen his fair share of group communication challenges, which have only grown worse as technology has become more important.
Mike’s executive coaching business, Newgrange Consulting, strives to create small, relationship-focused groups of like-minded executives to help through issues and overcome challenges.
“I currently “chair” four executive leadership groups, each with 10-12 members,” Mike explained. “Members are all upper-level management or company owners. The mission of the peer-group experience is to increase the effectiveness and enhance the lives of members, and I really encourage collaboration and communication. Members are expected to prepare for meetings and come ready to discuss the agenda items at hand, many of which deal with specific issues a member is having with his or her company.”
Between running his own business, communicating with peer group members, and managing ongoing engagements, Mike quickly realized that one-off emails were no longer a scalable, efficient option.
Since the members of Mike’s groups are upper-level executives, many of whom own their own businesses, every second of their days counts. With so many other critical aspects of running a company to focus on, important emails from a peer group can go unopened.
“If you’re a member of a peer group that sends out all communication via email, it quickly clogs up an inbox,” Mike said. “It’s easy for critical details like meeting logistics and agenda items to be lost in the noise of other emails and messages.”
For Mike and his peer groups, the challenge became figuring out how to distinguish between important information and side conversations. Because all of the peer group members have similar interests, there were often related discussions and reply-all email chains that muddied the waters even more.
“I wanted my group members to have the ability to build camaraderie and relationships, but I didn’t want it negatively impacting their engagement with other group communication,” Mike said. “And for me personally, I have four separate groups to deal with, so the inbound communication on my side was quickly piling up as well. I needed a way to better manage and streamline this process.”
Mike’s wife, board governance coach Kim Donahue, introduced him to Boardable’s board management software in the fall of 2017, and he decided to try it with two of his peer groups initially. He quickly realized the value of the platform and got all four peer groups up and running with separate Boardable workspaces. In particular, Mike recognized the benefits of the following features:
In the People Directory within Boardable, each peer group member can post a photo, brief bio, and their contact information. If new members join, they can quickly familiarize themselves with other members of the group before or after a meeting. Mike can quickly onboard new members, and current members can easily reach out to their peers.
Today, Mike sends out all meeting announcements and updates through Boardable. A week before a group meeting, he posts the agenda and notifies members that the information is available for review. Boardable also helps the meeting hosts track RSVPs, making it easy to provide breakfast and lunch and manage logistics..
Through the Document Center, Mike can share articles, updates, and thought leadership with all of his groups. He has folders with economic updates and forecasts, meeting agendas and host lists, and industry-specific articles. The Document Center also provides the groups with a single place to keep track of meeting attendance, group rosters, caterers, and extracurricular activities.
Previously, group members would send funny jokes or updates to the entire group via email, which often resulted in a reply-all nightmare. Now, they can communicate through Boardable so everything relating to the peer group is in one location. On Monday mornings, Mike also posts a Monday Morning Musings post for all his groups to recap previous meetings and bring together some relevant news.
Mike encourages his members to collaborate and communicate with each other outside of meetings as well, and Boardable has been the perfect platform for this focused discussion.
“If a member has a question for the group as a whole, they can easily post a discussion,” Mike explained. “It could be something about health insurance premiums for a company, and other business owners can chime in with their feedback and experience. They can make recommendations and post links. All in all, it’s a great way for people to communicate outside of email or in person.”
For Mike, Boardable has helped set his business offerings apart from other executive coaches because it provides convenience and efficiency to group members. By leveraging a solution that is proactive about not clogging members’ inboxes or interfering with their daily workload, Mike is showing members he respects their time. And members appreciate the peace of mind that everything to do with their peer group is in a single place, and nothing is slipping through the cracks. They can check into a dedicated portal to see what’s new with the group instead of combining the group communication with their businesses.
“Let me be the first to say that Boardable isn’t just for boards. If you’re managing any kind of group, it’s a great tool to have. I have recommended the platform to a friend that does the same kind of work as me. I love the control it gives me when sending communication, the fact that it doesn’t clutter members’ inboxes, and the ease with which I can onboard new members.”
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