I wonder whether you left your last board meeting feeling informed, clear, supported, understood and most of all energised to move things forward faster and more effectively in the coming weeks? Wouldn’t that be fantastic?
The reality is disappointingly more likely to involve at least one of the opposite – feeling ill informed, unclear, unsupported, misunderstood and actually a bit demotivated, returning to your office without the spring in your step that your team were hoping to see. And of course there is the responsibility you have to communicate positivity to your teams, which is undermined before you even open your mouth – you are very visible and all your mannerisms and movements are watched continuously. Don’t underestimate the human ability to spot both authentic and inauthentic behaviour!
Effective board meetings and thus effective boards are not a given. The top team gather regularly but with large intervals, work in theory to an agenda but so often find it difficult to move things forward in that formal environment. There is so much to contend with:-
- The chairman’s style & relationship with the CEO
- The evolving strategy
- The Interaction of the characters involved and the information provided
- The management of risk
- The challenges of staff
- Your current financial performance
These are just some of the many contributing factors that come into play during the three hours or so that a board has together.
It is important to assess where your board can improve its performance and thus its effectiveness. It requires honesty and openness at a level that may not be normal within you board but which should undoubtedly be present if you are to optimise your chances of success. From simple disciplines around what is acceptable or not in your boardroom (eg. looking at phones) to more complex areas of ‘trust and honesty’ that are necessary if the benefits and opportunities of the directors’ collective time together is to be maximised.
I was party to a board decision once that nearly brought the company down. It took three board meetings to conclude our decision, such was the uncertainty, and individually I am not convinced any of us would have agreed to it. The full information we needed to assess the risks were never fully put before us and the chairman was insufficiently rigorous throughout the debate. However together, with insufficient openness/honesty in the room, we paradoxically agreed to do something none of us actually wanted to do. ‘Group think’ at its worst! Is this in anyway familiar?
Is it time to take a long hard look at how effectively you work as a board?