Last time in Upgrade Your Board, Part I, we broke down a winning agenda to follow for best results. Head here for a refresher or if you missed it.

This week, on Upgrade Your Board, Part II we cover the types of people and personalities you want to have on your side. If they don’t do it early, leaders soon regret failing to invest the time and effort to make sure they have the right people on their board and use them well.

3 Pathways To The Boardroom

1. They are a founder or a key executive
2. They represent one or more investors 
3. They are an independent director – there because of experience and expertise, people who know what it is like to be a CEO

Pack your board with those who know what it’s like to be in your shoes, as a CEO or leader. People who understand the board’s priority to foster leadership, to make you and your team better. Board members who have never been in the leader’s seat tend to rely on pattern recognition – numbers or events that the books, biz school lectures or investment firm policies use as vital signs. While there is a place for that, it is a poor substitute for actual leadership experience. Those who have been a CEO (by whatever title) know how to keep the boundary between ends and means, between board role and executive roles. They know how to empower and how to give feedback, without trying to run the company.

4 Qualities

You want a spectrum of gifts and talents in the boardroom. Make sure you have these bases covered: .
Facilitating.  Good at guiding creative dialogue, though not necessarily in the legal Chair role. Their energy is confident and inclusive. These people are skilled at making meetings effective, and passionate about optimizing the potential of the board. The soul of the board.
Strategizing. Smart, good at coming up with options to navigate difficult situations skillfully. Foresight. A powerful intellect, diligent grubbing into the numbers to get the full story. The mind of the board.
Focussing.  Strong, determined, candid, no BS. This person doesn’t let us settle and believes that even the seemingly impossible stuff can get done. The guts of the board.
Feeling. . Research tells that a group of the smartest people in the room is less effective than a group that balances brilliance with people skills. Someone who feels, can empathize, brings a sensitive energy in the boardroom, and tracks the emotional energy in the company. Keeps everyone engaged. The heart of the board.
Think about which of these four qualities for your board is most strong and most weak.

One of the most important functions of the board is to give feedback to the CEO. Yes, ultimately  to decide if they’re the right person for the job, but most of the time to develop and expand his or her capacity.. 

I often hear that boards don’t have a good process for giving feedback to a CEO. As a leader, you want to take this in hand. While it might feel like “no news is good news”, no feedback is a risky move for any leader. Set up your board (1) to have regular private time to talk about you without you being in the room and (2) to tell you what they discussed, what feedback they have for you today. It’s way better to have a formal process for this when things are going well than to wait until there is some kind of crisis. 

A fully functional board will foster great leadership. I would love to hear your experience of what has worked and what has not.  

David Lesser
Founder & CEO