I survived another board meeting on Friday. For many people, board meetings evoke images of big important people making big important decision. Either that or it evokes images of a bunch of old white men in dusty suits and hair growing out of their ears and noses sitting around a mahogany table. Opinion varies greatly as what makes a good board and a good board meeting. I am not expert on either, but based on my last board meeting I know brainstorming sessions do not make good board meetings
Jeff Bonforte, CEO of Xobni, gave a presentation on board meeting lessons learned at the First Round Capital CEO Summit a few months back and his top 2 tips were 1. send all the reporting as advance reading and 2. focus the conversation on the top 2 or 3 things that keeps you up at night. I took his advice at our last board meeting and it went swimmingly well. Instead of regurgitating slides full of data, we spent the meeting discussing the “burning topics” on which I really wanted to focus a few big brains.
I sent this past week’s board deck several days in advance as usual. Except this time I decided to change the “burning topics” at the last minute to reflect a challenge that had literally kept me awake for at least the entire previous two weeks. The result wasn’t good. Instead of well thought out problems matched with potential solutions, the board meeting turned into a brainstorm session. Because I hadn’t prepared and synthesized my thoughts in advance, the meeting was a “swirl” of unstructured thoughts and opinions based on an overload of unstructured information and we never stood a chance of coming to a consensus on the issue.
My biggest takeaway was that board meetings are alot like business plans – its not about the plan, its about the planning. No matter what anyone tells you, no one reads your business plan but you. As one of my board members so poignantly stated after our meeting, the usefulness of a board meeting begins and ends with the CEO pulling herself out of the weeds long enough to think through key milestones and challenges and progress toward or over them. In other words, its about the planning, not about the meeting, the people or finding some magic answer to everything that is going on.