The CEO's relationship with their board is critically important for the overall performance of the organization. Sometimes, however, operational tasks and personality conflicts can make this a challenge. Below are eight of our best steps you can begin to implement today, which promise to put you in good shape to becoming a Board savvy CEO. This will enable a productive relationship to take place, and is crucial for trust to be fostered and strategic outcomes achieved much faster.
1. Develop a deep understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the Board
A Board Savvy CEO will steer the Board to ensure that all responsibilities of the Board are carried out. You need to be up to date with the latest Governance and strategic thinking techniques, constantly review the work of the Board to ensure that the Board is truly adding value, and work very closely with the Chair and the Board members to keep focused on all the responsibilities of the Board. Subscribing to relevant professional governance organizations, reading extensively and participating in governance forums all contribute to a Board Savvy CEO.
2. Build an awareness of the skills and aspirations of each Board member
A Board Savvy CEO will be aware of the skills of each of the Board members, both formal (education, work related etc) and their informal, personal skills. Often Board members have untapped skill sets, and the Board Savvy CEO will understand and make use of these. Each Board member will have different aspirations regarding their term as a Board member, and the Board Savvy CEO will have discussions with each Board member regarding these aspirations and work with the Chair to meet or to manage these aspirations.
3. Maintain a strong working relationship with the Chair
A Board Savvy CEO will forge a strong, robust relationship with each Chair of the Board. Before the Chair formally takes their position, have a discussion about how it would best work for both of you. The CEO should facilitate the Chair to perceive the responsibilities and possibilities of the Chair position, and will create a clear set of expectations between the CEO and Chair position. The Board Savvy CEO will brief the Chair on any potential surprises and issues in the Board agenda of each Board meeting, prior to the meeting, and work with the Chair to develop processes for Board and CEO succession planning, performance management and evaluation.
4. Nurture a conscious working relationship with the Board
A Board Savvy CEO will develop a strong working relationship with the Board as a collective entity. This means have robust performance evaluation measures in place, both for the CEO and the Board, continually refining the information that the Board receives and monitoring if this information is providing what the Board needs, and developing relevant mechanisms to show that the Board can trust the CEO, as that trust is constantly tested and independently verified.
5. Have a strong performance management system in place for yourself
A Board Savvy CEO will ensure that there is a robust performance management system in place for themselves, and will continuously monitor the perception of the Board regarding achievement against these performance measures.
6. Champion the Board evaluation
A Board Savvy CEO will champion the notion of regular Board performance evaluation. This performance evaluation will ensure that the Board reinvigorates itself when required, that succession planning is more formal, taking into account changing needs of the organization, and will further increase the professionalism and value of the Board.
7. Ensure that Board professional development meets the needs of the Board
A Board Savvy CEO will develop a regular Board professional development program that meets the aspirations and needs of the Board members individually and collectively. Develop guest speaker sessions to support the Board. This might include presentations from other CEOs of similar organizations, funding bodies, academics etc.
8. Focus the Board strategically, whilst keeping them aware of the operational components
A Board Savvy CEO will focus the Board strategically whilst keeping them informed of the key operational aspects of the organization. Reports to the Board will provide strategic options, not the answer. Strategic questions will be posed by the CEO, not the CEO trying to ramrod a decision through the Board. The Board Savvy CEO will create a culture of strategic awareness within the Board, not rubber-stamping.
How else can you become a board savvy CEO? Leave a comment with your thoughts, we'd love to hear them.