Leveraging the Board of Directors: A Teachable Moment For CEOs

June 4, 2012

Several weeks ago I talked about the importance of addressing the “elephant in the room” — a challenge the company is facing that is likely obvious, but that no one is eager to discuss.

elephant in the board room

Ignoring the elephant in the room can be a pervasive issue at the board level, and in my post I expressed why I believe openly addressing it on a regular basis should be a goal of every CEO and board member if the company is to achieve it’s goals and objectives and live up to its potential.

At the end of the post I offered a simple way to make sure this happens at every board meeting: make it the last item on the agenda. In this post I’d like to delve into that suggestion a little further, providing more details on how to go about it and the benefits this approach provides.

The way I approach this subject with the CEO’s and board members I work with in our portfolio is by asking the CEO to schedule the last two items (30 minutes each) on the agenda as follows:

  • Investor and Independent Board Discussion (CEO leaves the room)
  • Final Board and CEO Discussion

The benefits of this approach is to give the board members a regularly scheduled time to discuss the elephant in the room before sharing their thoughts with the CEO, followed by an opportunity to provide coaching and direction (a Teachable Moment) for the CEO, which is crucial for the CEO’s development.

My advice to any CEO who wants to leverage their board of directors effectively is to not only make sure the “elephant-in-the-room” challenges that all companies face are discussed early and often, but to also actively seek out mentoring and coaching from the Board in order to more quickly reach his or her full potential.

Both approaches are necessary in order to build a great company that reaches a great exit!

All the best!


Venture Partner

<strong>George Roberts</strong> is a Venture Partner at OpenView. He enjoys partnering with companies and helping them achieve their goals through strategy, focus and operational execution. From 1990 to 2003, George spent 13 years at Oracle Corporation, most recently having served as Executive Vice President of North American Sales. While at Oracle, George was responsible for over $1 billion in revenue and more than 2,000 employees, reporting directly to the company’s CEO and Chairman, Larry Ellison.