Want help from your board? Present the right information

Photo Credit: o.tacke via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: o.tacke via Compfight cc

I have been in far too many board meetings that sound like infomercials: The CEO presents each department in the best possible light and never mentions any problems. This is pointless if you actually want help from your board. To cultivate a board that contributes to improving the company’s performance, you have to give them the right information. Most of what the board members know about the company is what you tell them during the board meetings. It’s very important to think about what you present and how you present it.

What the board needs to know is how you, the CEO, run the business; not what each department does day to day. You and the department heads should identify a few metrics that reflect how they are doing. For the board, understanding how these metrics are tracking and what issues need to be addressed is much more interesting and important than hearing about all the deals that might close next quarter. If your board members do not know what issues are keeping you up at night, they can’t provide their full value.

Abstract the information to a general business level at which the board members can reasonably contribute, and stay away from the intricate details. For example, discuss your overall sales process and how the key metrics at each stage are tracking. Board members should have experience with sales processes across many industries and can add value. Talking about a specific deal, unless you are asking for a board member to help with closing it for some reason, is a waste of time and will often lead down a rabbit hole.

Too many CEOs make presentations to their boards that are far too optimistic in their assumptions. Over time as each forecast is missed or revised downward, the board loses confidence in the CEO. Either the CEO is lying to the board or the CEO is incompetent, and both are bad. To be successful, CEOs must know how to set relevant goals and metrics as well as collect the right information regularly from their teams about progress towards those goals. If CEOs present this accurate picture of how the company is tracking towards its goals to the board, they are more likely to get valuable insight and help.

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