I estimate that I have sat through over 100 board (bored?) meetings over the last 10 years and, frankly, I want those hours back.
CEOs complain about a lack of board engagement. But it is impossible to be engaged while sitting through two hours of a quarterly review listing every single task the organization accomplished over the last three months. The truth is that board members do have a lot of value to add. And they are eager to add it. The challenge for CEOs is to run a meeting that invites participation and thought leadership.
Boost your board engagement by changing your agenda. Carve out time in each meeting to: Inform, Educate and Engage.
Of course it’s important for the board to hear your quarterly results. This is best accomplished using a dashboard with consistent metrics that can be easily compared quarter over quarter. I’m also a big fan of adding a narrative that compliments the metrics and tells the story of the quarter. Keep your story short and sweet and focus on the highlights. Strike a balance on the amount of information that you share. Too much information can obfuscate the results. Too little information fails to keep your board informed and invites a lot of questions.
Your board is comprised of really smart, talented people who have day jobs and are not focused 100% on your company. If you want them to give you meaningful advice, you have to increase their knowledge and awareness. Create space in your agenda to present industry trends or other relevant topics related to your business. For example, if you are concerned about cyber security, you might bring in an expert to give the group a primer. If you are preparing for a strategic planning process, you might have a futurist speak about trends to set the stage. Or, take the opportunity to deepen the board’s understanding of your products or services so members can be more effective ambassadors for the company.
Give board members the opportunity to actively participate in every meeting. Two-way communication is critical to leveraging the talent and expertise around the table. Pose a strategic question at each meeting and set aside 15-20 minutes for a dynamic discussion. Send the question out ahead of time, and even tee up the topic with a relevant article or TedTalk. How might we grow our market share in a certain geography? How might we bring more efficiency to our supply chain? How might we be a more agile organization? These discussions are where the magic happens. Board members feel valued when they contribute. Robust discussion helps build relationships and trust among the members and with the CEO – relationships that are critical if/when there is a difficult issue that the group needs to tackle.
Stop putting your board to sleep: change your format. Inform. Educate. Engage. Try it. Your board will thank you.