Improving Board Relations

You may have the support of your board. But how deep does this go and can you rely on it when conditions change?

Boards demand leadership attention.  Plan to spend 20-30% of your time partnering with these stakeholders to preserve your managerial prerogatives and avoid disruptive surprises.

Ask yourself:

How happy is your board? Do you meet with your board often enough (in their view), and do these encounters fulfill their needs? Do you rely too much on the board executive committee, instead of the full board? If so, do you communicate with all trustees often enough?

Do you have diagnostics to check the vital signs of your board? Do you have clear agreements between management and the board about how to judge performance, or do anecdotes and personal observations substitute for objective data? How often does a trustee preface critical feedback by saying, “I’ve heard that people are saying…”?

Do you have the support of a governing majority of your board? If so, how sustainable is this support, and how willing or able is this coalition to influence the less supportive? If not, can you still pursue your agenda and achieve the goals for which you’re held accountable?

Do you need to renegotiate your role or change your goals? How much personal political capital do you have to spend turning around the less supportive, and how willing are you to spend it? Will your chairperson or another influential officer help you?

Do you treat all board communications as part of an ongoing conversation that shares expectations and results and redirects action, as needed? Do you convey your performance in clear, consistent ways from meeting to meeting? Have you asked your trustees about the efficacy of your board communications and the clarity of your commitments to them and the organization?

Does an independent reviewer evaluate your performance as CEO? Does the reviewer interview (not survey) board members individually, aggregate results, present them objectively to you and the board, and facilitate a conversation (in which you participate) about strengths and areas for improvement?