Advisory Boards + Psychological Safety


Advisory Boards applying critical thinking

Critical thinking is essential for making informed decisions and solving complex problems in a variety of contexts, including personal, professional, and societal issues. It allows us to evaluate information critically, assess arguments objectively, and make well-informed decisions based on evidence and reasoning rather than on biases or emotions.


According to the Advisory Board Centre, the global leader in best practice for the advisory sector, an advisory board is a structured and collaborative method for organisations to engage with external advisors. Advisory boards act as sounding boards for either the company’s owners, directors or shareholders.  The resources at the Advisory Board Centre are comprehensive, so have a look at their site if you are interested in exploring. 


“Critical thinking is not a single skill, but rather a collection of skills that enable someone to make logical and informed decisions and to solve problems systematically and effectively.” – Diane F. Halpern   1

  1. A study published in the Journal of Small Business Management found that advisory boards can improve the performance of small and medium-sized enterprises by providing access to strategic advice and networks.    2

  2. Another, published in the Journal of Business Venturing found that advisory boards can enhance the innovation and creativity of startups by providing access to diverse perspectives and expertise.     3

  3. The National Association of Corporate Directors found that advisory boards can help organizations navigate complex issues and provide valuable insights into industry trends and best practices.   4

The diverse role of advisory boards

"No one person has all the answers, and even the smartest among us can fall prey to cognitive biases and other blind spots. But when we bring together diverse perspectives and experiences, we can see things more clearly, challenge our assumptions, and arrive at more robust and nuanced solutions." 5

Governance boards have an important role in overseeing the management and operations of an organisation, advisory boards can provide unique benefits in terms of expertise, strategic guidance, innovation, support to governance boards and network building.

Additionally, for those who are not ready for a structured governance board, a formal advisory board provides them with the governance, due diligence and collective intelligence of a board without the weight of compliance. 

  1. Expertise and insights: Advisory boards can bring in diverse perspectives and specialised expertise to help organisations make better decisions and solve complex problems.
  2. Network and connections: Advisory boards can provide access to new networks and contacts, which can help organisations expand their reach and influence.

  3. Credibility and reputation: Advisory boards can enhance an organisation’s credibility and reputation by associating it with respected individuals or organisations.

  4. Strategic guidance: Advisory boards can provide strategic guidance to help organisations achieve their goals and objectives.

  5. Innovation and creativity: Advisory boards can bring in fresh ideas and perspectives to help organisations innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

psychological safety - challenging the status quo

Advisory Boards and Psychological Safety

Certified Chairs and Advisors need to be aware and mindful of the new workplace legal and regulatory framework, from new IR laws, Anti-Discrimination laws and the focus on psychosocial hazards in the workplace in addition to physical safety as part of the Workplace Health and Safety regulation. 

1. As contractors, suppliers and advisors in some areas in business we need to ensure that we are aware of the new legislation to ensure that we are considering every aspect of the “people equation” when dealing with business. From business owner mentors to teams. If business owners are struggling then so would their teams and managers.

2. It is important as advisors that we start to remember the importance of the “people equation” in terms of change management, mergers and acquisitions, and transformation. Whilst there are well known processes to change management we continue to think that everyone will accept the same approach to change. Apply critical thinking – we need to be measuring the psychological safety of our teams that are critical to the implementation process ie our IT teams and those who will be impacted the most ie teams A, B and C. Again, we have a responsibility to ensure we are compliant but also thinking of the consequences of what we are doing to the people at the front line who are always the last to know.

3. With the resources required to ensure compliance, governments have been supportive by providing grants or government support to assist small businesses and specific industries with the financial costs and the human resources. Ensure you are aware of these to help businesses. 

4. With a very tight labour market (with an economic slowdown) many organisations are “people” resource poor the risks of psychological unsafety increase. So this is not the time to halt spend on your people. If you are not investing in your people now, you are exposing yourself and your organisation to great risk. Again, make sure your workforce and work design strategy is addressing “the environment to ensure retention, learning, upskilling, problem solving when your people are under pressure”. In the words of a workplace barrister talking to boards about duties and responsibilities –  “do you like living in your house? Because jail is not fun and this shit just got real”.

5. As we talk to more and more leaders they indicate that they are spending more time in the “weeds” and less time on strategy, customers and innovation. This is a great risk consumer needs are changing rapidly. In many cases we have experienced organisations who thought they are maintained marketshare only to find that another market had opened and they were in fact missing a large chunk of the market.

Our role is to challenge and apply critical thinking
The key here is to ask yourselves and others- how are we measuring psychological safety as a lead indicator of risk and performance? How are we measuring, monitoring and reporting on psychological safety? What are the risks that have been identified and how are we mitigating them. What are we missing if people “don’t speak up” – this is particularly critical if organisations are working with vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children and the sick. But we can apply it just as easily to banking, finance and IT when you look at the impact and community outrage from poor decisions. If our leaders are behaving poorly, if they are fatigued or struggling – the impact on their teams is being felt. So whilst we mentor our leaders or client, who is looking after the rest of our people – our employees, clients, community and stakeholders. Are we monitoring them?





  1. Halpern, D.F.,
  2. Churchill, N. C., & Lewis, V. L. (1986). The five stages of small business growth. Harvard Business Review, 61(3), 30-50.
  3. Wiklund, J., & Shepherd, D. (2003). Knowledge‐based resources, entrepreneurial orientation, and the performance of small and medium‐sized businesses. Strategic Management Journal, 24(13), 1307-1314.
  4. National Association of Corporate Directors. (2015). Advisory boards: Enhancing corporate governance. Retrieved from
  5. Harvard Business Review

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