How does a CEO make the most out of the board of directors? By keeping them well informed on both the good and the bad news. Here is how:
- Schedule a weekly or biweekly 5-30 minute call with key board members. The purpose of the call is to give them an update on current issues. In return you get important feedback.
- Write a CEO letter to the board a few days before each board meeting. Cover key issues on the agenda: strategy, victories and setbacks. Give your thoughts on where the company is and what actions and decisions you are contemplating.
When your board is fully informed, they come into the meeting well prepared, aware of the challenges and ready to dive into the core topics.
As CEO of a company, a startup or a large corporation, you must make the most out of your board of directors. Otherwise, success will be temporary at best.
To make the most out of your board, you must keep them informed. My very strong recommendation is to keep them fully informed of both the good news and the bad news, your worries and what you are thinking about, what you’re planning.
Here are two things that I do with my boards.
First of all, I do weekly or biweekly calls with several of the board members. The big investors or the key board members you have on your board. Have a call with them every week, every second week. Maybe five, maybe ten minutes, maybe a full half hour or so, where you just tell them where you are, what you’ve done since the last call, what keeps you up at night, what you are working on. They’ll give you small ideas and tips. Specifically, when they come to the board meeting they already know what’s going on.
The other thing I do is I write a CEO letter to the board before every board meeting, and I send it out a few days before, typically so that they have a weekend where they can read it. It’s a written document, just text, my own text. I write it myself. I rarely ask others to give me input for it. It really is from the depth of my heart to the board members, talking about the company, the strategy, what we were doing, what’s working, what’s not working, progress we’ve made, victories, but also setbacks, issues. It’s an open communication to the board before the board meeting, covering broadly the topics that we have on the agenda, but not necessarily exactly. Just giving a picture of where the company is.
When the board meeting starts, it means that every board member is fully prepared and you can go nearly straight into the real discussions. The meaty topics and strategy discussions that you need to have with the board.
As a benefit, the board never gets a bad surprise, never a nasty surprise. Because you tell them immediately when something is not going well.