The Art of Constructive Challenge

by Tracy E. Houston —

THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL you can sharpen as a board member in today’s world is the ability to ask questions. This Board Guru™ handbook, The Art of Constructive Challenge, authored by board advisory consultant, Tracy E. Houston, compiles a comprehensive, easy-to-follow guide to powerful asking skills. While most governance books take a high-level viewpoint, speak in general terms, and offer very little as far as director improvement techniques, this handbook offers direct insights on a specific leadership competency for the boardroom – asking key questions so that rich dialog can be established or increased. Since the format provided can be used for all types of boards, The Art of Constructive Challenge will find a home on any director’s short list of handy references.

The events of the past few years prove that the challenges facing board members have grown. We are in a time of transformation marked by a shift in the balance of economic activity away from advanced economies and toward emerging markets. Competing and succeeding in this environment requires directors to focus on what really matters. With a mindset that fosters a culture of inquiry, you can accelerate the ability to grasp information quickly and completely.

Our goal is for you to have detailed information that will greatly improve board effectiveness. The Art of Constructive Challenge is a ready reference that you will return to again and again for the crucial tools needed in the boardroom, including:

  • Functional advice on how to frame and ask hard questions in a manner that will build trust;
  • Boardroom Constructive Challenge Chart with situation and response examples;
  • Focus areas to develop the board’s wisdom and move away from passive listening;
  • Key identifiers for difficult boardroom conversations;
  • How to expand and enhance your personal style of inquiry;
  • Cutting edge information from the field of neuroscience to advance boardroom performance;



Tracy E. Houston, M.A. is the President of Board Resources Services, LLC. She is a refined specialist in board consulting and executive coaching with a heartfelt passion for rethinking performance, teams, and the boardroom.

Tracy’s “deep smarts” of the boardroom’s ecosystem are gained from first-hand participation as a former sitting director, consultant to boards and author of the Board Guru™ eBook Series With nine years of experience executing board search and governance based consulting engagements, her boardroom background, along with key insights of the politics of leadership and the competitive pressures of today's global marketplace, is embodied in a roll-up-your-sleeves style.

Tracy, with six years of experience as a sitting director, was one of the nation’s youngest women to sit on a board in the electric utility sector where she provided leadership during a period of industry change driven by deregulation, privatization, technology and globalization forces. She is the past chairman of the board of the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology. In 2008 she was inducted into one of Colorado's local women's hall of fame groups.

Extensively published, Tracy has written hundreds of blogs that are featured on several award- winning websites. Frequently quoted, Tracy has recently appeared in Corporate Counsel’s In-House Straight, Energy Wire and After Nines. Her articles have been seen in many publications from The Denver Business Journal, Financial Executives International Magazine and Computer Weekly.

Tracy’s formal education includes a Bachelor of Science, Business Management from Metropolitan State College. Her graduate studies were completed at the University of Denver. She is a patron member of the Colorado Bar Association. Tracy is an avid hiker and recently backpacked in the Grand Canyon.