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Beyond the Boardroom: Communicating With Your Board

ceo transition planning strategies governance transition tips for a board transitioning a ceo Feb 14, 2024

- By Sophie Pinkoski

As a CEO transitioning into a new role, one of the most crucial partnerships they will have is with the board of directors. Recognizing the value offered will accelerate the CEO's and organization's success.

An organization is only as successful as the performance of its CEO and the board.

The symbiotic relationship between the CEO and board allows for information exchange to help your organization run smoothly. But building a relationship trusting enough to facilitate this exchange takes work. It's up to the CEO to set the tone with the board to encourage a culture of trust and transparency. This means sharing all pertinent information with the board, both good and bad. The more informed they can be the board can offer its insight and foresight.

Overcommunication is key here; don’t assume what the board already knows or remembers the context or content.

A CEO will have insights into the everyday operations of the organization that the board does not. On the flip side, a CEO must be prepared to listen when directors have tough questions or challenging ideas. By being open to one another’s perspectives, a strong relationship can be built with the board that will ultimately benefit the organization.

Here are some tips to build a culture of open communication with the board:

Liaise with the board chair –– Effective communication begins with the chair serving as a first point of contact between the CEO and board. Speaking regularly will help maintain a free flow of information outside of formal board meetings. The chair is there to act as a springboard for ideas, offer advice, and relay insights and questions from the board.

Regular, timely communication builds trust, and transparency between CEO and chair further strengthens communication channels and ensures that information is shared both ways.

Set clear expectations from the offset –– Board members should have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, as well as the board’s purpose in its governance and advisory capacities. Clarify the organization’s goals and objectives, as well as any processes and boundaries they need to be aware of to avoid any misunderstandings. Building trust and respect among directors means engaging them to contribute to meetings. Connect with individuals outside of formal meetings to better understand their motivations and what they bring to the table. Touch base with them to confirm their communication preferences (email, phone, in person) and what information enables their informed decision-making.

Make the most of board meetings with a focused agenda –– The board chair should take the lead in designing and refining a comprehensive agenda with the CEO (and other supporting professionals). The board’s time during these meetings is sacred– they only have so much time to spend on items. It is therefore crucial to avoid deviating from priorities outlined in the agenda. Discussions should be an opportunity for open dialogue amongst the group, which means preventing any one person from dominating the conversation or straying to irrelevant topics. The chair can reach out to board members before meetings for their feedback and to add anything pressing to the agenda.

One-on-ones between the chair and board members can be valuable.

By leveraging the board chair, engaging directors, and setting focused agendas, the relationship with the board can be strengthened. Building a culture of trust, transparency, and collaboration lays the foundation for effective CEO-board communication and paves the way for an organization’s long-term success.


Further Reading

The Pillars of CEO-Board Communication, NACD

Board vs. CEO, Director Prep

What do CEOs Need from their Boards, Right Now?, Director Prep

Positive Relationship Between CEO & Board - A Necessity for Success, LinkedIn

8 Best Practices for Improving CEO/Board Communications, Share Vault

How Best To Manage Communication With, Through And Around The CEO, C-Suite And Board, Forbes

How CEOs Can Work with an Active Board, Harvard Business Review  

Best practices for CEO board relationships, Diligent

Building the CEO Board Relationship, Spencer Stuart

Under pressure: Maintaining a strong board/CEO relationship, KPMG

The relationship between the CEO and the board of directors, Board Pro

Good CEO/Board Communication Begins with Trust, Private Company Director

The Good, Bad and Ugly of CEO-Board Communication, Stuart Levine & Associates LLC

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