Managing the Board’s Expectations

February 12, 2020

December 16, 2019

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Governance

Let’s examine the role of the board from the perspective of an experienced CEO. This article provides executives with insight into the board process and ways to get the best from the board. It also provides directors with insight into the effect of their requests on the executive and managers of the business.

Here are eight measures that will help you navigate a successful board interplay.

1. Build and enhance relationships

  • Do your own research on where each director can help you make the boat go faster. Digital tools such as LinkedIn provide a background as to the skill / qualifications each holds as well as an insight to how they position themselves.
  • Supplement your desktop work with enquiry with mutual connections. This provides further colour to the likely style of the director’s interests and method of enquiry that you will encounter.
  • Finally, and most importantly, invest time up front in getting to know each director. This is best done offsite. Your research into their wider interests should warm the conversation.

2. Form good habits early

  • Utilise time spent building relations to agree expectations – including board reporting. Requesting insight as to what they appreciate receiving from the executive is helpful to your planning.
  • Seek input and examples from directors on what they like to see included in reports. The BoardPro CEO report template is a useful start if the company either does not have a document in place or wants to check theirs to it.

During your check-in with the chair, discuss how you may best utilise each director’s specific skills. Put direct questions to them during the meeting. Time permitting, directors usually respond favourably to the opportunity to add value.

3. Develop radar skills

  • Scan macro information on your business industry regularly. The information will help you identify opportunities and threats.
  • Watch for trends in the market including in adjacent industries. Directors can help you see potential impacts from other areas in which they have deep knowledge.
  • Seek director opinion / feedback. Consider with the chair how (and how often) this may be shared with directors for their background and perspective.

4. No (late) surprises

  • Bad things happen. Hearing about it late shouldn’t. All businesses experience challenges at various stages. How the CEO communicates looming issues helps build trust and a supporting set of minds to overcome the adversity.
  • It is best to surface issues early and where appropriate before the meeting. The risk of sharing bad (or any major) news at a meeting is that it does not allow directors time to reflect. Like late board papers – it risks a negative response.
  • Seek the guidance of the chair on how to best prepare directors for bad news. They likely know the other directors at least as well as you do and can guide your approach to the topic, advising on how individuals each best receives news.

5. Manage up. Help the directors to add value

  • Use the skills on your board by helping the directors play to their strengths i.e. if recruiting your first offshore sales hire, involve your sales experienced director in the process.
  • Provide background information and be open to feedback on advice from their expertise. Like CEOs, directors to want to feel they are adding value.
  • Pay it forward. Consider introductions where possible for directors to widen their circle of interest. Directors value a two-way street and may then in a difficult moment for you be more inclined to go the extra mile to help you succeed in your role.

6. Prepare tight, timely and well formatted board packs

  • What gets measured gets done. Selecting the right metrics early is important. Help directors focus on the key indicators that makes the boat go faster.
  • Utilise one pagers, graphics and summaries to pinpoint the issues, directors are busy people [don’t write stuff that won’t be read]. Be clear on what director input / outcome you are seeking where at all possible.
  • Refine your reporting and measures with the agreement of the board on a regular cycle to avoid a never ending growth in standard board pack items. Aim for 10 – 30 pages max.

7. Help directors understand your world

  • Directors appreciate getting to meet your team. Seeing [direct] reports present in a board setting where and when appropriate is helpful. It also shows the directors that you are confident in your team and how you lead them.
  • Hold your meetings at different Company venues. Directors like to walk the floor and meet the people that perform the day to day functions for the company. This helps directors to gauge the mood and understand the culture of the company.

Involve the customer and other relevant stakeholder. Receiving outside perspectives first hand is gold for directors. Think of the best setting for this and the level of formality that will unlock the greatest insights. This could be at stakeholder’s premises or in a neutral venue at a more relaxed time of the day / setting.

8. Confirm and reconfirm the strategy

  • For most companies there is no shortage of opportunities. However, time is limited and resources finite. Ensuring that the strategy is clear and agreed with the board upfront and then review it on a regular basis.
  • Stay vigilant to the subtlety of change. This may be dictated by market forces, or from moving priorities from the board. If change is required, ensure that this is clearly documented.
  • Finally execute relentlessly. Ensuring your measures adequately capture the progress important in assessing success, and where tactics may need to be adapted. Regularly communicate progress to the board, and if demanded changes you wish to adopt.

Nothing is fail-safe but closing these sorts of gaps will improve the performance of the company and allow the board / executive and management relationship to flourish.

Want to know how your board of directors and managers can be more productive and efficient through the use of technology? With BoardPro board software, you can centralise board information, get organised, save time, and reduce hassle. With BoardPro, everything is just a couple of clicks away.

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