“My board drives me crazy!”

68-board-pic1-29nov2016After coaching, interviewing, and just hanging out with hundreds of Founder & CEOs, I have noticed a consistent theme that just doesn’t get enough attention and causes you a great deal of anxiety.

Relating with, managing, and just plain communicating with your BOARD. Wow, this is a huge issue. In fact, Mike McDerment, Founder & CEO of FreshBooks, brought it up in his podcast interview with me and so did Ry Walker, Co-founder & CEO of Astronomer, in his podcast interview.

Besides your leadership team, no other group of people have the potential to impact the direction of your startup than your board. Depending upon their ownership agreements and decision-making authority, the relationship you have with these important people frequently are the catalyst for worry, concern, and just plain time. Thus, my headline quote for this blog entry from a client of mine.

So, can you have a good relationship with your board? Yes!

Should you? Yes!  It’s part of your responsibility to do so!

How do you make this happen? How can you enhance your relationship with your board? Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Spend more time with them: Understanding the personal motivations and personality traits of your board members will help you tailor your communication approach both individually and collectively.
  1. Communicate the good AND bad: I really appreciated David Cohen’s recent piece, “Don’t go dark.” The point he made is to share bad news with your board as soon as possible. Now, don’t be silly about this. Don’t pick up the phone and verbally vomit on them. Assemble your thoughts, collect the facts, and ensure you have an initial idea of how you might handle the “bad news.” This builds trust, the big “it” factor when it comes to you and your board.
  1. Remind them of the mission: Board members are people, too. They are busy, distracted, former entrepreneurs who may have trouble focusing, and are full of new ideas they collect on their life journey. So, they DO need to be reminded of your company’s mission. Do like Dan Shapiro of GlowForge does. Let your company mission be the first slide, every time your board meets. Read it out loud, like he does. Yes, I know it will be awkward at first. Do it anyway. Try it and let me know what happens. 🙂
  1. Ask: Mike McDerment of FreshBooks calls board members before his board meeting and asks about their expectations. After the board meeting he calls board members to get feedback. Of course, the way you ask for this information is important. Confidence and poise is essential. But, you might be surprised how impactful this exercise is.
  1. Practice: Do you go into your board meetings cold? Why? Do you think that just because you secured their investment dollars that you no longer need to be at your best? Wrong! Practice what you will say. Role play with your team members about how you will respond to possible objections, challenges, issues, and potential confrontations. It is rare for me to find any Founder & CEO who excels at “in the moment” articulate thoughtfulness in a board meeting. It’s hard work. Prepare for your board meetings.
  1. Insist on Facetime: Social psychologists have an abundant amount of research that supports the claim that most communication is nonverbal. If you can’t be in person, then you would be wise to increase the odds of effective communication with your board members by, at a minimum, using technology to have a “face-to-face” conversation. Many of you attempt to convince me otherwise, but having studied the art of communication over the years, I have plenty of stories to support my emphasis on this. Just insist on some “facetime” communications. Use tech. Zoom. Skype. FaceTime. Whatever. That’s ok.

These are just a few ideas. In the future, I intend to compile and create an amazing resource that brings together all of the best practices in mastering your relationship with your board.

So, what works for you? Send me your stories, thoughts, and ideas and I will be sure to consider them for the future book, video series, or course that will help you with your board.

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