As a first-time founder and CEO, I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to work with and get the most out of 3Pillar Global’s board. I’ve also been fortunate to have phenomenal board members who’ve taken an interest in my growth as a leader and who’ve been willing to coach me on how to communicate more effectively with our board.
Assuming you have a board, it’s vital to make sure your board meetings are run well. After all, you’re presumably giving board members equity, direct compensation, or both. It only makes sense to be strategic about making the most of your time with your board since it will only happen a few times each year.
Run well, board meetings can spark lively debate, open your eyes to possibilities you may not have seen, and serve as an accelerator for your business. Run poorly, board meetings can spark dissension, raise questions about your credibility to lead, and create an untimely drag on your time, attention, and even your business.
These are five ways I consciously work to ensure that our board meetings not only run smoothly, but also help serve as a launch pad for our business.
Stay Connected to Board Members
I make it a priority to stay connected with each of our board members throughout the year. If your only contact with the board comes each quarter at the board meeting, it’s going to be tough to develop enough of a rapport that you can have open, honest, unvarnished conversations. I aspire to be in touch with each of our board members at least once a month, if not more frequently than that.
Get Purposeful about Outcomes
For each board meeting, I identify and share ahead of time a few key outcomes that we want to focus on as a company over the next several quarters. Sharing these outcomes ahead of time gives all our board members the chance to think beforehand about how we can drive these outcomes. Your board members aren’t living in the trenches of your business each and every day. Giving advance notice of the outcomes you’re seeking, in my experience, leads to much more robust conversations and, ultimately, far better outcomes than saving them for the board meeting.
Preview Hot Topics
As with the outcomes you’re seeking, sharing any hot potatoes ahead of time with your board will help the team explore potential solutions in your time together. It also minimizes the temptation for finger-pointing or turning the meeting into a trial by fire on a singular hot-button issue. If your revenue numbers are off, you’re losing key members of your executive team, or you’re anticipating other headwinds in your business, it’s best to share that news ahead of time rather than spring it during the meeting.
Your role as CEO isn’t to be the star of the show, or the person who gets all the credit, or the person who’s always the smartest one in the room. Your role is to be the best leader, team builder, and facilitator you can be. This extends to board meetings as well. I frequently delegate large portions of the board meeting to other members of our executive team. This isn’t because I’m shirking responsibility or because I don’t want to put in the work. Far from it. It’s because I really and truly believe in hiring people who are better than you are in their respective disciplines and then trusting them to take the ball and run with it. The board is much better off discussing our numbers from the previous quarter with our CFO than they are with me.
Come with the Right Mindset
Last but not least, you have to approach board meetings with the right mindset. This means being open to feedback, even if it’s difficult to hear, and being accepting of your board’s advice. You don’t have to blindly accept every bit of advice you get, but if you aren’t in the right mental space to be coachable and collegial, you’re simply wasting everyone’s time.
Wrapping it Up
I’ve said many times before that building a board in the early days of 3Pillar was one of the best decisions I ever made for our business. As the years have passed and our board has organically changed, it has continued to be a high-performing board that has helped to fuel our growth. I don’t think that could have been the case without taking a proactive, intentional approach to how I run our board meetings.
Stay tuned for my next post, in which I’ll cover how I prep for a board meeting as a board member.