Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Board Retreat Engagement Reading

CEOs and board chairs frequently ask me, “We’re preparing for our annual (or every-other-year) board retreat. What’s a good book for board members to read in advance?”

I usually suggest one of five books, including Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask, by Ram Charan. (Read my review.)

If you’re not planning a retreat, you can also leverage the wisdom in this book by addressing one or two questions per board meeting over the next year or more.  The book can also be read topically, based on your current hot issues. When I first read this excellent resource, I started with Question 13: How Do We Stop From Micromanaging?
Here’s a question (not in this book) for Christ-centered organizations: When does a board’s micromanagement cross the line from ineffective governance to blatant sin? If you explore the driving forces of micromanagement, from a biblical perspective, you might uncover some ugliness/sin: lack of trust, ego, pride, perfectionism, lack of faith, lack of grace and much more.

But enough preaching—and more on this book.  All 14 questions have zinger qualities to them. My favorites, based on my board consulting work, include:
   --Question 11: How Can Executive Sessions Help the Board Own Up?
   --Question 12: How Can Our Board Self-Evaluation Improve Our Functioning and Our Output?
   --Question 2: Are We Addressing the Risks That Could Send Our Company Over the Cliff?
   --Question 4: Are We Well Prepared to Name Our Next CEO?
   --Question 5: Does Our Board Really Own the [Organization’s] Strategy?

The best practices for the strategy question are both brilliant and practical—but the CEO will need to dramatically increase face time with board members. But the pay-off could be huge. He notes, “Strategy should always be in the back of directors’ minds. It helps to have the strategy brief or a two-page sheet of bullet points in the binder for every meeting.”

Then Charan cautions us, “If the board and the CEO have lasting substantive differences, they have a choice: stay with the strategy or replace the CEO. Consider that management has a shelf life too, just like the strategy.” (Yikes! If you’re the CEO, maybe you’ll delete this book from your list—or use it as a tool to raise the bar in your own God-honoring leadership.)

Engagement Method.  Pick the most relevant six or eight chapters and pre-assign to board members. At the retreat, ask each board member to share a 10-minute chapter review (five minutes of content and five minutes of Q&A). You’ll be amazed at the level of preparation—and the insights—when you engage your board members.

QUESTION:  If you gave a Pop Quiz at your next board meeting, how many board members would be able to intelligently articulate your organization’s strategy?

No comments:

Post a Comment