Five Critical Changes Every CEO Should Make for a More Strategic Board

Make Your Next Board Meeting Your Best Board Meeting Ever

Recently my Partner Jaime Grego Mayor, who runs ABA in Europe, and I presented at the Young Presidents Organization (#YPO) Global Leadership Conference in Singapore. The YPO GLC is a unique, annual event that brings together top CEO’s and other global Business Leaders. Click here to find out more about the YPO organization and the GLC Conference.

YPO A Unique Global Organization

During the GLC, we facilitated a discussion (click here to read more about our presentation) with the group on how to generate more strategic impact from their board meetings. The title of the presentation was High Impact Boards (#HighImpactBoards) – Boards That Transcend Governance. We have given this presentation to multiple groups around the world including the Singapore Institute of Directors (#SID), #Deloitte, and other organizations. The difference with this presentation compared to the many others we have given was that we only had 45 min for the presentation and Q&A for a training that normally takes between two hours and two days. This required our best “Ted Talk” speaking abilities to explain a complex topic in such a short amount of time and still provide “take home” value to the participants.

In this post, we are going to share with you the concepts that we presented at the GLC. Since we had so little time we had to make our presentation as efficient and simplistic as possible. We broke ABA’s High Impact Board System down to the five key ideas that any CEO could implement to immediately “supercharge” the strategic output of every board meeting.

As we did with our discussion at #YPO, we need to preface this list by mentioning a couple of “disclaimers”; 1. These five ideas should all be implemented in every board meeting in order to maximize the effectiveness. PIcking and choosing the ideas that are easier will not have the optimal impact. 2. These ideas should not be considered the only five strategies for a High Impact Board. They are only a start to transforming your board meetings! While these changes will supercharge your next meeting, only a complete analysis of your current board process and the implementation of a holistic strategic board process like ABA’s, that focuses on board impact in every meeting, will turn a “good” board into a #HighImpactBoard.

Two very good looking Presenters

#Highimpactboard Idea #1: Track Who is Speaking? Who is Educating Whom?

Most boards consider themselves highly “strategic” but the proof can be found by tracking who speaks in a meeting.

Our data proves that the more time the Independent Board Members speak in a board meeting the more they can add value to the organization. By having the Executive Team or Non-Independents dominate the discussions in the meeting, the more reporting of information and less value creation takes place since the Non-Independents already know the business.

The best Board Meetings that our team has observed achieve a 50/50 or even 60/40 percentage ratio of time that the Independents are speaking compared to the Non- Independents. The ABA System generates between 80% and 90% of the total meeting discussion being driven by the Independents. We collect data on multiple metrics during every meeting on our system to analyze the greatest strategic impact points. Our data shows the highest strategic impact scores is when the Independents are speaking 88% of the total time of the meeting. This is a fairly easy metric to track and once you start measuring this data, you will see a direct correlation to an increase in the strategic value of your meetings.

#Highimpactboard Idea #2: Eliminate All Powerpoint Presentations

For some organizations, it seems like the only way they know how to communicate with their board is through a long and detailed powerpoint presentation. The more powerpoints in a board meeting, the more the conversations will be dominated by the Executive Team explaining what the slides mean. This makes it almost impossible to achieve the 80%-90% goal of having the board members provide ideas, information, and insights.

We are seeing more organizations move to a model where they can only focus on presenting on one or two slides in the slide deck rather than the whole thing. While this is better, it is still not as efficient because it is still “presenting” information. Having

What a great event

only a few slides could prove even more confusing to the board members because then they would have even less context for discussion. STOP THE MADNESS!!!! Even one powerpoint presentation in a board meeting is an ineffective use of the boards time if you are trying to generate High Impact. I know the “board expert” out there is going to throw their weight around and argue with me on this, but we have seen the benefit of eliminating powerpoint presentations.

By moving the “presentation” time and information into the board documents and the pre-reading materials (where it should be!!) you can be more efficient with the board meeting time. By explaining the information in the board packets with sentences, paragraphs, and information and not just pretty graphs and bullet points, the board members will come more prepared to provide insights based on the information in the board packets. Isn’t that the point of a board packet? Another important benefit of following this idea is your board meetings will be dramatically shorter because you have eliminated all of the presentation time. 

#Highimpactboard Idea #3: Objective Evaluations of Every Board Meeting and Board Member

Believe it or not, when we provide High Impact Board training or presentations to a group of CEO’s and Business Owners, this idea of conducting board evaluations is not as controversial as “Eliminating All Powerpoints”.

According to our data, only 34.3% of boards of private companies conduct evaluations of the performance of their boards or board members. What is even rarer outside of ABA’s High Impact Board System, is to find boards that are evaluating every meeting and quantifying the strategic input from the board members.

We are not talking about the minimum board evaluation standards at the Public Company level. Board Evaluations for Public Companies are driven by three highly ineffective reasons; 1. Compliance with the wishes of the shareholders 2. Check the box for board governance “best practices” 3. To maintain a “status quo” at the board level.

We can think of worse places to give a speech!

Normally this involves hiring a very expensive and big “board expert” that asks very general and subjective questions of the Directors (normally the Executive Team does not participate…stupid). This not only allows them to “check the box” but since there is rarely any direct feedback given to the individual board members on how they can improve, it is not very helpful in driving higher leadership from the Directors.

One of the benefits of this ineffective process is it allows for the “We must be doing well meeting” where the board members can confirm that they all think the board is adding a lot of value. After the “board expert” aggregates the information in a huge report, they present the “good news” in a small part of a meeting. This confirms that since all the Directors think they are doing well, then the board must be doing well.

For organizations and Board Members who are trying to maximize the impact of their boards, this is not a very impactful use of time, resources or money given the low ROI. #HighImpactBoard Evaluations provide a useful feedback loop that can help the board members create more strategic value on a consistent basis. These types of Evaluations provide a higher level of transparency and accountability for the Board Members and the Organization. For example, in ABA’s #HighImpactBoard System we evaluate key metrics from every meeting, including the probability of impact of every idea or data point that is initiated by each board member.

To be continued………If you have other ideas or want to know how you can communicate with your board members without using a powerpoint click here and share.