CEOs, Stop Trying to Manage the Board

CEOs, Stop Trying to Manage the Board

It’s understandable that most CEOs try to manage their boards. With directors often attempting to take a more active role in decisions these days, CEOs naturally feel a bit threatened. They’re trying to lead a group of people who typically lack the time or expertise to fully understand what’s going on — but who have real power.

At most companies, despite all the best intentions, managing the board usually means keeping directors at arm’s length. Most CEOs I’ve known are inclined to give out just enough information to satisfy their fiduciary obligations

It’s all a matter of developing trust. Building trust can be a delicate thing, but it isn’t magic. You don’t need special charisma. All you really need is courage and self-confidence.

Real transparency, I learned, isn’t so much in the numbers, but in open conversation.

With unscripted meetings not only freed directors to ask more questions, but also gave them more of a window into the company. They got to see the other executives in action, including my potential successors.

It’s important to remember that boards see only a small part of you, and even less of the company. They visit for a day or two and get a snapshot.

If you give the board unfettered access to executives, you’ll build trust with the directors as well as with your management team. Openness and transparency in board meetings over time can go a long way toward making everyone comfortable with everyone else.

A CEO’s job is hard enough. One of your biggest responsibilities is to avoid making dumb decisions. Wouldn’t you want all the directors to feel comfortable challenging you and each other?


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