If You Want a Good Relationship With Your Board, You Need to Ask These Questions
Want to Take Your Business to the Next Level? Consider Establishing a Board of Directors.
Without that connection, these relationships can go south quickly. In our review of 70 CEO firings, one-quarter of dismissals stemmed from broken board relationships. And in situations where a board has majority control, it typically takes just two years to push out an under-performing CEO, often placing an externally sourced CEO in the place of a founder.
So, how do you build strong relationships with your board members? While some may be personal connections, all too often, entrepreneurs find themselves with investors they don’t personally know or independent board members they may have interviewed but didn’t source. In our work with entrepreneurs, we encourage them to start by asking their board members these questions:
1. What excites you the most about being on this board?
Succeeding with the board starts with understanding how their performance is measured and what motivates them. Do they crave relevance, status, stimulation, compensation? Most board members genuinely want to add value, but understanding why they’re there can help you engage them more deeply.
2. Where have you focused your time and efforts in the past?
This question will help you understand each board member’s competencies and shed light on how they have operated on boards in the past: How often did they meet? What level of detail did they involve themselves in? How were decisions made? How did they tackle crises?
3. Where and how would you like to engage in the future?
This is an opportunity to get a clearer picture of how much of each board member’s time and attention you’re likely to get. It also eases board members’ doubts about how they can contribute and be useful to you and the company.
4. Whom on the board do you talk with most often?
With this question, you are looking for clues as to who is influencing whom. A board member can capture undue influence by forcefully asserting himself in meetings and building strong relationships with other board members. It’s important to understand existing relationships, try to rein in those that could create dysfunction and strengthen those that put the company on the path to success.
5. What does success look like, for the company and for me as CEO, in one year? In three years?
This is the start of many conversations to align on what success looks like — and how it will be measured. From day one, it’s critical to get everyone on the same page when it comes to measuring performance. As one CEO I worked with pointed out, “Having five or seven bosses requires common ground on how you read the business, so make sure you find common ground in how you define success.”
Failure to manage the board is among the top three most commonly cited mistakes made by CEOs. By investing in these relationships, you build a platform where you are working together as partners in reaching the organizational goals. You are planting seeds that will bear fruit for years to come.
Author: Elena L. Botelho and Kim R. Powell,Founder of the CEO Genome Project