First-time CEOs: Heed this advice on leading your board

  Here are a few “rules of the road” in constructing and leading your board. Boards are like any other group in that they perform best when they are well led (as contrasted with “managed” — especially managed to death by PowerPoint.) • Set the Tone: To maximize your board’s effectiveness, you need to help them by setting the right tone as CEO. First, you will be well served if you make it a part of your standard cadence to call each board member a week or so before the board meeting. These are brief 10-minute calls just to see what’s on their mind as issues or topics. If there is a big concern a member has, you have the opportunity to diffuse it rather than be ambushed in the meeting. • CEO Letter: One idea I have seen work well is to consider writing a brief one- to two-page letter to the board a few days before the meeting. This helps to focus the board on the key points. • State of the Union: A best practice I’ve seen is that the CEO starts each board meeting with a mini-“state of the union” soliloquy. This has the benefit of reinforcing your role as CEO and leader, and focuses the board on the key topics of the board meeting. • ‘The Board Eats What You Serve Them’: Specifically, when you don’t identify a topic you are seeking input/guidance on, then the board will just jump in and can take the discussion down tangents that are less productive. Boards are made up of smart, motivated people who want to make a contribution. It’s incumbent on you to lead them to ...

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