Let’s talk about your startup’s Board

Let’s talk about the relationship between the founders and the Board, or how to a build high performance board.
I often hear statements from founders such as: “I just want the board to agree to my decision”, “the board member is opposing me and asking undermining questions”, or “the board members don’t give me any value” and other similar statements.

A recent research by Deloitte (By Vincent Firth, Maureen Bujno, Benjamin Finzi, Kathy Lu, 2019) interviewed dozens of CEOs and their board members found that:

  • The current complex and competitive business environment requires new ways of thinking about the relationships with the board.
  • The days where CEOs wanted to minimize their interaction with the board have passed.
  • CEOs are realizing that the board is a strategic asset that enables future growth to the company.
  • CEOs and boards should work together to enhance their relationship for strategic benefit.

So what should you do?

  • You should be aware of your perception of the current relationship with the board. This is key: how do you perceive your board today?
    • Capital exchange relationship
    • Leader-follower relationship
    • Trusted partnership-based relationship
    • Senior know how – junior learner relationship
  • Articulate the relationship you would like to have with the board and the value that you expect the board to provide you and the company. Without defining a clear value proposition you won’t be able to build a high performing board.
  • Proactively impact the selection of your board members. Fight for the people that you believe will think and act for the benefit of your start-up. Don’t be passive.
  • Understand that your board is impacted by intricate interpersonal dynamics, which are hidden most of the time. You can’t ignore or resolve tensions, ego fights or conflicts of interests between the board’s members. You need to analyse the dynamics with sensitivity and manage them.
  • Be courageous to put things on the table, with honesty and transparency. Don’t hide behind presentations that say nothing.
  • Manage your relationships with each of the board’s members, in person and collectively. Your relationships with them will generate value. It won’t happen by itself.
  • Lead the room – invest energy in building leadership competencies and practice them. Be the leader in the board room, not a follower.