What Makes a Great Board?
High performing boards don’t just happen - they evolve from a clear understanding of what a company needs today, and the foresight of what a company will need in the future.
For CEOs, managing the board is one of their top responsibilities, and a critical part of their annual performance. With the day-to-day focus on operational details, however, episodic board dates creep up before a CEO can take a step back to reflect on the “needle-moving” questions, and plan an agenda that best addresses their current needs.
Additionally, boards don’t operate like any other part of the executive team; these individual directors take time out of their busy schedules to meet for just a few hours, a few times a year. It’s on the CEO to understand the individual strengths of the board members, and guide the directors towards their most effective contributions.
Board leadership is a soft-skill that isn’t easily taught; it’s learned through trial and error. No two boards are alike, and each is a new - and ongoing - learning experience. First-time and veteran CEOs alike face the same two major challenges: understanding the optimal dynamic of their particular board members, and figuring out how to best harness their board’s collective expertise for the company’s current needs.
Building a Great Board
As an executive coach, one of my specialities is working with CEOs to optimize their board leadership. I spent 15 years as a partner for Fidelity Ventures, serving on various boards of our portfolio companies and learning from their unique dynamics, successes, and failures.
My approach to Board Optimization blends an efficient light-touch process that combines a quantitative survey with brief phone interviews with individual directors, and results in actionable insights. Each engagement is tailored to:
- The CEO’s objectives for the board
- Current board dynamics.
- The company’s stage of growth
Typical Board Optimizer engagements kick off a few weeks before an upcoming board meeting. We’ll connect to discuss your objectives and what is important to you about your board. I’ll tailor the assessment process to get to the core issues, and synthesize the findings into actionable recommendations by your next board meeting. The process is “light-touch” to your directors, requiring only one hour of their time. You will see the results of your board optimization by your next meeting.
While I am based in Boston, I work with clients around the world; this optimization process is effective both in-person or over the phone. You can pursue the The Board Optimizer as a stand-alone engagement or part of a broader executive coaching/leadership plan.
By investing in your board leadership, you will see these improvements in your board:
Better teamwork: You will learn how to best leverage the strengths of your individual directors. You will also know the skill gaps on your board, which you can optimize for when recruiting for your next independent director.
Enhanced Communication: The overall respect, tone and candor within the board meetings will improve as you improve the communication dynamics.
Straightforward Priorities: Refocusing the board’s energy on the highest priorities helps you to make the best use of your board’s limited time together..
Efficient Decision-Making: Improve agenda setting and board content creation. The “inputs” into the board determine the quality of the “output” back from the board.
Optimizing your board leadership skills will have a ripple effect: your board’s mission will expand from being driven by fiduciary obligation to delivering enhanced, strategic value-add that accelerates your company’s growth.
Want to learn more about the board optimization process? Contact me to arrange a complimentary consultation.
Learn more about my Executive Coaching >
I am a certified executive coach working with C-level executives, investment partners and innovative companies to help them reach their full potential. I believe in the science to coaching, and am trained in the areas of positive psychology and mindfulness.
Having spent over 15 years as a venture capitalist at Fidelity Ventures, I understand the entrepreneur's journey and the investment partner's mindset. I have helped build companies through the up and down cycles. I've had a seat at the boardroom table, and experienced firsthand that great companies and leaders don't just happen, they are made.
- 1:1 Executive Coaching and Leadership Development
- Leadership 360s
- Board Optimization
- Off-site Facilitation
Board Optimization 360 Process for NASDAQ-listed company
CEO of EventBrite and Co-Founder of Xoom
(IPO, sale to PayPal)
"I’ve collaborated with Anne on Xoom’s board of directors for the past 11 years. Anne provided perspective and advice to the board as we scaled the company through venture rounds to IPO and beyond. Anne has this ability to ask questions that get to the heart of the matter. She excels at making the implicit explicit, and having people talk about the key issues in a real way. Anne gets the people side of what it takes to build great businesses."
As a CEO - where I am focused on lots of operational areas - it was essential to have Anne lead a process that helped me improve our board’s effectiveness. Anne led our annual board assessment which resulted in our hiring additional independent directors, and her efforts improved our overall board communication. She has been a great partner to work with, and she really gets the nuances of how boards work. I recommend her Board Optimization process to any CEO looking to get more from their company’s board.
Chairman at OpenTable
"Anne and I were fellow directors on the Board of XOOM. We served during a period in which the company transformed from a private to public company. Anne served as a catalyst for change to the quality of our meetings. Anne masterfully led our board self evaluation process in a highly effective and efficient manner. The process yielded practical changes that had an immediate positive impact for both the Board and the management team. Her combination of prior board experience coupled with a talent for active listening and collaboration enabled us to get the most out of the time we spent together."
INTERESTED IN A Board 360 or Board Coaching?
Every coaching client has different goals, objectives, and a situation that is unique to them. Our initial meeting will be focused on my learning more about your objectives, and discussing where coaching best fits your priorities. Contact me to set up a time to discuss your needs and learn more about how coaching can help you achieve your goals.