In my latest blog post, I shared five tips on How I Prep for a Board Meeting as a CEO. In addition to being CEO of 3Pillar, I also sit on the board of a number of companies, which affords me the opportunity to experience board meetings from both sides of the table.
Serving in each of these capacities has helped me broaden my leadership skills. I have the good fortune of getting to experience both sides of the dynamic between company leaders and the boards that have been appointed to help take their companies to the next level of maturity. Here are 5 ways I’m intentional about preparing for board meetings when I’ll be participating in them as a board member rather than leading them as a CEO.
Develop Rapport with the Team
I always find it important to get to know on a personal level the leadership teams of the companies where I’m a board member. Much like how I go about hiring a new executive at 3Pillar, I aim to cultivate relationships that go beyond the confines of the boardroom or the inbox. This is one of the best ways I’ve found to develop trust and establish avenues for open, honest communication, which is a necessity when everyone’s time is valuable and
Stay in Touch with the Board Members
Much like developing rapport with the team, getting to know and keeping in touch with other board members throughout the year makes the limited time we get together in board meetings much more fruitful. You’ll begin to develop a sense of how they think, operate, and communicate by doing so. I’ve found that a number of fellow board members who I originally thought were abrupt, almost to the point of being standoffish, are actually some of the kindest, most genuine people I know. They just happen to be very direct communicators who cut straight to the chase.
Check in with the CEO
CEOs are inherently busy. I know from more than a decade of being 3Pillar’s CEO that there are rarely, if ever, enough hours in the day to make every decision, answer every email, and return every phone call. I still make it a point, though, to check in with the CEO a week or so ahead of a board meeting to see if there’s anything that he or she wants to focus on in the next few quarters that I should have on my radar to discuss at the board meeting. Even if there’s nothing that hasn’t already been shared in prep materials, it shows the CEO that I’m engaged, eager to help, and looking forward to our time together.
Set Time Aside to Prepare
I always carve several hours out of my schedule in advance of a board meeting to make sure I have time to prepare myself for the discussion. Preparation typically includes reviewing and digesting any prep materials or presentations that have been shared ahead of time, my notes from the previous quarter’s meeting, and any industry reading that may help me be more knowledgeable in discussing how to help the company meet its goals in the months and years to come. My brain is constantly in processing mode, so giving myself enough time (a few days at least) to absorb information in advance of a board meeting is key to me being able to collaborate with others to get to insights or suggestions that add value.
Show Up Engaged
If you’ve tackled each of the previous 4 recommendations, this one should be a walk in the park. I make it a point to always show up to board meetings engaged and ready to contribute. This doesn’t mean commandeering the room and turning the board meeting into the David DeWolf show, but it does mean having informed opinions about the topics at hand and how the company and leadership team may be able to improve in some form or fashion. This is so much easier to do if you’ve done your homework ahead of time than it is if, for example, you’re seeing the board deck for the first time and are trying to react to it in real-time.
Wrapping it Up
Building businesses is one of the things that I’m most passionate about in the entire world. I love serving on company boards and helping other entrepreneurs realize their dreams of building long-lasting companies that make a positive contribution to the world in one way or another. Much like leadership itself, being a board member is a privilege, not a right. And since board meetings typically happen just once a quarter, they provide one of the best outlets for board members to provide meaningful contributions and guidance on how to navigate the path forward. If you follow these 5 guidelines, you’ll likely find yourself delivering an outsized impact to the companies whose board you’re on.