Ed Sim has a good post on how to run a board meeting for a venture-backed company. Anyone who is struggling with that issue should go take a look. I agree with everything Ed has to say on the subject.
The one thing I’d like to emphasize is Ed’s comment that there should be an executive session of the Board at the end of every meeting. I have found that to be absolutely critical over the years and many of my companies now do that as a standard part of the meetings.
Most good Board meetings will include members of the management team that aren’t on the Board. Board meetings might include other investors who aren’t on the Board. It’s a good idea to nicely ask all of them to leave at the appropriate time so that the Board can talk about things that are Board issues. It’s also a great venue to allow the Board to give the CEO uncompromised advice and feedback on issues that have come up during the meeting.
One additional thing that is often a good idea is a truly executive session where the CEO is also asked to leave. That gives the non-management Board members an opportunity to talk about issues that may be too sensitive to be discussed with the CEO in the room. If these meetings don’t happen after the regular meeting, then its a good idea for the non-management Board members to find other times to get together, either before the meeting for breakfast or lunch, or after the meeting for lunch or dinner.
The bottom line is the more communication that exists between Board members, the better off everyone is. And often certain discussions can only happen with the right people in the room and the right people out of the room.