Do You Want Better Board Meetings? Then Work The Phone

I was talking to the CEO of one of our portfolio companies last week. He was preparing for a board meeting that is coming up. He told me that he had scheduled calls with all of his board members and investors that attend his meetings and had completed most of them. He had gotten feedback on what they were thinking about his company, what they are excited about, what they are concerned about, things they want to discuss, etc. He said it had made a big difference in his preparation for the meeting.

I think it will also make a big difference in the meeting and make it a lot better. Soliciting your board member’s input on your agenda is important. But it is also really helpful to have these “one on ones” in advance of the meeting so you can update each board member on the things that they are concerned about. The board members will arrive at the meeting more prepared, they will be more comfortable, and they will also be able to help more. And the CEO will be highly attuned and attentive to the issues that matter most to the group.

This kind of preparation is time consuming. Who wants to work the phones in the SMS era? Nobody to be honest. But it pays huge dividends and I recommend it strongly.

You can keep the calls on the short side, 15-30mins each, and that means it is two to three hours of work for most board sizes and investor groups. I would recommend doing these calls one to two weeks before the meeting so you have time to collect all of the feedback and incorporate it into the agenda and the board materials. But don’t do it too far in advance because you also want your board members and other attendees to be “fresh” in terms of their understanding of what’s going on in the business.

If you have never done this, give it a try on your next meeting. I bet you will be pleased with how well it works. If you do this already, then keep doing it. Because it works.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Jess Bachman

    “Who wants to work the phones in the SMS era? Nobody to be honest.”I dunno, I sound a lot smarter on the phone than my abbreviated, typo’d, auto-miscorrected, disaster that is my SMS theater. I couldn’t do business that way.

    1. JimHirshfield

      U R karect, sur

  2. William Mougayar

    Good one. As you said, it sends the message that you expect them to be prepared, and not just show up. Some people under-estimate the value of “taking time to think” about something.

    1. LE

      Hah what I wrote above prior to reading your comment but in a different way.

  3. Sebastien Latapie

    I think calling also signals the importance of the interaction – by dedicating your attention to the various board members, it shows that you are committed and involved.

    1. LE

      Also creates a sense of obligation on the part of the people that are being called which is important generally for any type of engagement commitment.

  4. Twain Twain

    Marc Andreessen considers Twitter buy?* http://www.businessinsider….The board meetings at Twitter must be very interesting these days.

    1. Guy Gamzu

      that’s the rumor…

    2. William Mougayar

      you are obsessed with this 🙂

      1. Twain Twain

        Haha, :*). Twitter was not even on my radars until about 2 years ago when Fred suggested we give it a try. In fact, I had 0 consciousness of the company, product, potted founding story, Jack vs Noah vs Evan etc. Since then I’ve watched 6 interviews involving Twitter and its founders and read about two dozen articles on the company.Even with that min. info, it’s easy to see the company has long-standing strategic issues.So in Oct, you said Jack would have 9 months reprieve from Wall Street and share price would go north of $35?Meanwhile, I said 6 months wthin which it would either go south of $20 or north of $30.Then Q3 earnings call happened and from there my instinct was “south of $20”.In my 20s I was board observer on 20+ tech investments for UBS. When an earnings call goes smoothly, bankers are more inclined to give “benefit of the doubt”.When an earnings call shows any sign of management weakness, bankers drill down on those numbers even harder.I like Twitter. I think SV needs artistic founders like Jack because otherwise it would just be full of engineering automatons who build autistic products without deeper philosophies about human interactions facilitated by tech.Still, I’m not Wall Street and Wall Street doesn’t like Twitter right now.

        1. LE

          I think SV needs artistic founders like JackHowever it’s only 1/2 of an artistic founder.

      2. Twain Twain

        Wall Street, corporate strategists and the media always obsess about “problem child” companies.My newsfeed setting track Wall St, corp strategy & media updates and they have done for 10+ years. And Twitter is choca-block in that news stream right now.

    3. Richard

      Periscope is a hidden jewel of Twitter and is rising in popularity amongst noncore Twitter users. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday soon it may be worth more than Twitter itself

      1. Twain Twain

        Let’s see if Jack can do with Periscope what Zuckerberg has done with Instagram.Twitter got some patents for streaming videos/photos from drones so that too would add to Periscope’s potential.The issue is more with the core product: the text tweets.It will be a significant integration, technically, that Twitter team needs to pull off to make core product and Periscope work seamlessly together.Facebook’s product engineering team have been stronger — sorry, but it is what it is.

        1. Richard

          My guess is that MZ will launch a periscope competitor, but “scope” is now a noun and given the right team periscope can be the most important tool of the new economy in this decade.

          1. Twain Twain

            Well, the other thing is that FB’s AI strategy is a lot more integrated and advanced than Twitter’s.That means they can target content better and they do have the core infrastructure of WhatsApp. Right now, when our friends text us a series of photos it goes straight into our photo libraries.Now, imagine what will happen when Whatsapp enables real-time video sharing.

          2. Richard

            True but what makes periscope different is just how viral it is.

          3. Twain Twain

            It’s not only virality that matters. It’s stickiness, retention and consistent activity that Twitter is finding hard to solve.Facebook doesn’t give its users reason to leave their properties once they’re attracted by some viral content.

          4. Richard

            Stickiness is huge with periscope. I’d bet that time spent is in the hours per day for active users.

          5. Twain Twain

            Ooh … Twitter’s gone all Pinterest and Google Plus…

    4. LE

      Twiiter is definitely going to go up. The reason is I wanted to buy it after a post that Fred did but purposely didn’t as a result of my theory on why I shouldn’t pick stocks even if I think I have an edge. [1] So it is definitely going to go up. However I have already resigned myself to sticking to my general feeling about stock investing in this manner. (I do have stocks but they were picked by somebody else..)[1] Essentially it’s a full time job to keep on top of it and over time unless the tide is rising the casino always has the edge.Edit: Damit! It’s up 10% today! Didn’t know that when I wrote the above. (And the market is down today so far. )

      1. Twain Twain

        Let’s watch their Q4 earnings call closely on Feb 10.The numbers may tell why 4 of 10 senior executives left. It could be that their strategies didn’t produce the growth ratios the company was aiming for.It may get worse (towards $15) before it gets better.

        1. LE

          I don’t care about earnings. I care about the brand. As someone who pays a great deal of attention to mainstream media, twitter is a brand that gets a great deal of airtime and mention and the result of that is tremendous value. Long term it’s hard for me to believe that it won’t go up in price significantly for some reason. Even if the user base is stagnant and even if the numbers aren’t good. And even if Jack is 1/2 of a CEO. I’ve also factored in that it’s a “significant portion of Fred and Joannes assets” (or whatever he said ..)I mean for god’s sake Paul Newman could sell salad dressing just because he put his name on the bottle. Twitter is a brand and they can make money in some way with that brand. That’s the way I look at it.It’s really difficult for me not to buy this stock. Shows hows much discipline I have! (now now that makes me feel much better!).

      2. jason wright

        http://uk.businessinsider.c…a story guaranteed to push the price up.i wonder why the story was published? an “exclusive” tag always makes me suspicious.

      3. Twain Twain

        Ah … but then read Canaccord’s note …”Twitter stock is down ~27% YTD and ~46% since it last reported earnings in October. The move was exacerbated by last week’s management shake-up, and clearly our BUY rating has been wrong during this period.We are returning our rating on Twitter shares back to where it should have been all along – Sell. Twitter is a product that has never fully developed into a sustainable public company due to either poor strategy, poor execution, or that it was never destined to be one.”*…Yes, it should be pointed out that equity analysts have often not had any operational experiences as CxO and have limited lens into board meetings.Still, Canaccord’s note is an indication of the types of questions Twitter team will need to answer on 10 Feb.@samedaydr:disqus @wmoug:disqus

    1. Mario Cantin

      LOL! How do you come up with this shit?

    2. jason wright

      is that car part of a self driving toilet service?

      1. JimHirshfield

        No, ’cause it’s got a Bug

    3. Donna Brewington White

      I have learned to make sure I have nothing in my mouth I can spew or choke on when reading your comments.

      1. JimHirshfield

        That’s good, safety first.

        1. panterosa,

          I’m with Donna. I like a clean screen 🙂

          1. JimHirshfield

            Cleanliness before commentness.

    4. sigmaalgebra

      Perfect location for the BoD meetings!

  5. Tom Labus

    Well worth the time. Plus any informal member to member discussions before the meeting are also very helpful.No surprises either.

  6. ErikSchwartz

    Yup, the week of pre BOD meeting coffees save a lot of grief.

  7. Semil Shah

    To me, the broader lesson here is that whenever you’re hosting anything — an event, a working lunch, BoD meeting — you’ve got to give it a special touch where everyone who shows up feels personally invited (and engaged). People have too many distractions and choices of how to spend their time.

  8. BillMcNeely

    In the government sector when working with the Afghans and Iraqis if you did this before the meeting the chances of getting what you needed ( not what you wanted) were much higher.If you put those guys in the position of showing power crazy stuff happen and you were left out in the cold on key topics and losing momentum.

  9. jason wright

    and is the idea to cross pollinate ideas with each new call, or save it all for the meeting?

  10. JLM

    .A CEO should pay careful attention to the care and feeding of her board. Always be attentive to people who can fire you.The agenda should be 25-30 items long but only contemplate discussing 5 items. I used to put the actual discussion items in RED so everybody knew which ones were going to be up for discussion.Put the speaker’s name (CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO, etc) with each item and set a time budget for each agenda item and publish that on the agenda. It works great to manage the time.Let individuals, who you want to showcase, make a short presentation but keep it short. I always liked to have my acquisition guy update the pipeline and then show him the door.Get that agenda and the board packet in the board’s hands a full week ahead of the meeting. Too early and it can get stale. Too late and they won’t read it.Make sure the info is digital and in a Board DropBox. Note who actually accesses it digitally. You want them to look at it.Send an email to the boardmember and their assistant with all the board scheduling data and attaching the board book and telling them where it can be found digitally (DropBox).Invite digital input with a deadline of 5 days prior to the board meeting. Only then begin to make calls.Be careful on the calls not to expose your views if there is going to be a contentious issue on the agenda. The best fights are hand to hand. If you’re going to have a fight, don’t telegraph your tactics.If you know something is not going to go your way and you are the sponsor, take it off the agenda and re-issue the agenda. This is a small point but very important. Never engage in a public fight you know you’re going to lose. Particularly at a board meeting.Make sure that you have similar prep for committee — audit, comp, operations, capital — meetings.As important as it is to speak to your board BEFORE a meeting, it is also important to speak to them AFTER a board meeting particularly if any bruises got raised.When you know you have the votes on a contentious issue and you are the sponsor, recuse yourself from the vote — only if you will win when you recuse yourself. This way, you get what you want without making an enemy.When someone rides to your rescue, drop them a hand written note. The shelf life of a hand written note can, sometimes, be infinite.Have a clear definition of what an “independent” director is and make sure the independent directors have a private meeting.I used to like to have independent directors meet BEFORE the board meeting because I would learn in real time if they had a bug up their ass about something. If you have it AFTER the board meeting, you may not get a good read until there is a crisis.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. fredwilson

      Rule #2 – be attentive to the people who can fire you

      1. JaredMermey

        Managing up is a very hard skill to learn. Much harder than managing down.Especially because those you manage down are often in the trenches with you and spend every day working on the business. Those you manage up often spend there time across multiple companies/business units.

    2. fredwilson

      I’ve said it before but I will say it againMany of your comments here are full blown blog posts that contain some of the best “how to” advice out there.I worry that they are buried in here

      1. JLM

        .Fair play to you.I just start typing — stream of consciousness — and never really know where it is going until I hit send. I will try to be more attentive in the future.”Be attentive to the people who can fire you?”JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. LE

          More people will read what you say here than on your blog. Obviously. [1] In that sense they are not buried. For that matter Fred can always highlight (ala NYT) certain comments although he runs the risk of alienating the proletariat..Fully understand the “I just start typing — stream of consciousness — and never really know” part. You read or think something, an emotion is created and you just go with it. Much different than an obligation or an assignment.[1] Of course you can always repost elsewhere.

        2. Donald E. Foss

          When doing my DD on my independent director seat, one of his references mentioned that “the only real job of a board is to decide if they need to fire the CEO.” While knowing it was a function, an unpleasant function, I hadn’t thought about it quite that way before and it really stuck with me. Being attentive to them is playing offense.

        3. Lawrence Brass

          Fred should know we also come here for the tacos… What? Never had tacos in the menu? That’s why tacos must be paid with cash? Houston, Houston.. 🙂

      2. creative group

        FRED:for those of us who are attentive and astute every post and contribution with substance is never lost.Some of the best advice is actually implemented immediately.

      3. sigmaalgebra

        Lost? Hell no! Downloaded, abstracted, indexed, sometimes cross indexed (in this case for both your posts and JLM’s), noted with key words in my own, unique, special, highly effective all-knowledge system I call facts.dat (well, it’s sort’a that good!), backed up to a separate internal hard disk and an external hard disk. Lost? Not a chance!Today your post is a keeper, and so is JLM’s. After I read the whole thread, maybe the whole thread is a keeper, right, indexed, etc.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          …the whole thread is a keeperWhen Fred writes a post like this, I am always excited to read the comments. (But, then, I’m always excited to read the comments.)

          1. Donna Brewington White

            If you say I do. 🙂

      4. Donald E. Foss

        No, not buried or lost. No one forgets where the gold mine is once they start finding pure gold ingots.Thinking about JLM’s last paragraph–while I only have a single independent director, I do post-mortems with both my independent and my board advisor. It’s pretty amazing what I learn from those.

    3. William Mougayar

      Can u elaborate on the Indep Directors private meeting – why?It sounds like a good nugget.

      1. JLM

        .A public company is required to have independent directors. I recognize we are not talking about public companies here but it is far easier to look to the dictates of public company governance standards than any other body of doctrine.Practice like you intend to play.Independent directors should meet by themselves in order to ensure their conversations are candid and far reaching. A perfect example is the discussion of CEO performance or the performance of the board itself.In defining independent directors, it would not be out of bounds to exclude large shareholders whose breadth and depth of ownership may create an understandable throttling of the conversation or a toxic conflict of interest.I also subscribe to an annual confidential board survey in which the CEO draws out the board on its own performance, the company’s performance, the CEO’s performance, their outlook on the economy.It is a vital bit of G-2 (intel).I will be glad to send anyone who wants one an exemplar of a survey I used for this purpose for years.I always learned something and always shed some light on a blind spot of mine.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. creative group

          JLM:We would like to review your exemplar of a survey.Thanks in advance.

          1. creative group

            JLM:We thank you in advance.

          2. JLM

            .did I send you one?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          3. creative group

            JLM:We appreciate and thank for it. Received.

        2. William Mougayar

          I get that, but was inquiring about the “separate” meeting with the IDs. Why separate? Their beefs are different? Why won’t you let them air them with all?

          1. JLM

            .Sometimes, they are critical of other board members and management directors and the CEO.They also may have other fiduciary duties.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. PhilipSugar

            The perception of how the company is doing and what should be done can be very different depending on your financial stakes.The two edge cases are when the company gets an early offer to get acquired, or when the company wants to slog along with slower growth, rather than to go big or go home.

    4. Tom Labus

      On fire today.

      1. JLM

        .I’m expecting a big win for Hillary in Iowa?Like that Viagra commercial — more than 4 hours?Could also be L’ville v the Heels tonight, who knows?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    5. Twain Twain

      You’re SO BOSS in your coaching knowhow and factorially increase our enjoyment of AVC.I think Fred needs to get “AVC: boss community” T-shirts made, haha.

    6. PhilipSugar

      I agree, the one thing I don’t like to promote is having meetings before the meetings. Prepping for the meetings absolutely critical, understanding what questions you are going to get before you get them, positive.But encouraging people to meet and make decisions before the meeting, is something I have found very toxic.

      1. JLM

        .I wonder if we aren’t saying the same thing.I do not intend to foster the notion of having a meeting with any Board member before a board meeting. Email exchange — OK. Phone call — OK. Skye — OK.I want to do these things in sufficient time to change the agenda, if necessary. Add or delete items.The meetings that should take place before a board meeting (same day is best) are the audit committee meeting (subcommittee is fine nomenclature), comp committee (if there is any comp work to be done), and the Independent Directors meeting, if such a meeting is ever held.Some of these meetings are mandated by Board charter which is how the Board and every committee/subcommittee should be constituted.I cannot tell you the number of problems I have headed off by having clear Board and committee charters and by passing the membership around amongst the Board over time so everyone gets to serve on all the committees.An example is having a provision that no action can be taken by the Board or a committee without a Corporate Resolution passed by the entire board. This way, you have no “well, Sam said at the audit meeting and we all agreed” baloney.Also, some of these meetings are mandated by SEC or PCAOB “suggestions.”As a CEO, I would never go to an audit committee meeting but I would ensure it happened, make sure that that the auditors attended (also corp counsel if an outside counsel) and make my CFO available.If a CEO ensures there is a regular audit committee meeting, then it is pretty damn hard for anyone to find fault with the “goodwill impairment assessment” or “non-cash compensation assessment” or the “option plan” at some future date.Regular comp committee meetings, even if 5 minutes, ensure that performance appraisal and CEO performance will not creep up on a CEO.They are good practices and serve the CEO.One last point — the use of a Decision Memorandum to frame specific decisions is a “best practice” that will save a lot of time and trouble. I used to make the acquisitions guy, the CFO and me sign off on it. I would then recuse myself from the Board vote as I was the sponsor of the decision.An abundance of caution works best.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. PhilipSugar

          We completely agree. I was just cautioning people that read your great comment to not misinterpret.Rescuing yourself from decisions that you are the sponsor of where you have prepped as much as you can and will not be killed by the outcome is just a great decision.

          1. JLM

            .The smartest guy I ever met once told me that a smart CEO uses his recusals more carefully than his votes.He was on a seven person Board and used to say the way you count at a seven person board meeting is — “one, two, three, four, seven.””Never ever be on the losing side of a vote when you already know that you’re going to lose. Throw in with the majority and pretend you were with them all along.”This is why when I run a board, I try to vote last all the time.I once had a bone headed Board member and he ended up on the losing end of a few 6-1 votes. I took him out to dinner and ‘splained how to count to him and the entire dynamic of that Board changed.Hell, he was even happy for a few months which was no small thing.I get a kick out of the dynamic of boards. I find that CEOs generally do a shitty job of controlling their board and their own destiny and it can be dramatically improved with just a few little changes.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    7. Donna Brewington White

      The advice about following up afterwards is particularly striking.I’ve seen the need for this advice on boards and in my work in general. A continuing area of growth, admittedly.And I am not alone. When I worked for a search firm where we went through an extensive set of questions with high level executive candidates, a fairly consistent area of weakness that they admitted was follow-up.

  11. pointsnfigures

    great advice. Makes meetings get to the meat of the subject, and makes them go faster too. I feel like investing in startups isn’t a point to point exercise. Meaning, you don’t meet, write the check, and then checkin/monitor every so often in a board meeting. It’s more of a constant conversation. Also, I really try hard to check my own opinions and ask a lot of questions to get deeper answers. I am not there as a judge/jury, I am a partner and a coach. More Sacajawea than Lewis and Clark.

  12. iggyfanlo

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m one of those folks that always has some level of trepidation before Board meetings. Just the “event” not the news. But once I tried this path of conversation and learning 1-2 weeks and 20-30 min with each Board member I came into the meeting with a much clearer, shorter and tighter agenda.The meeting went more smoothly and I got the best feedback I’d ever received from Board members. They got what they all wanted and saved time. Winner-winner chicken dinner… well that was afterwards. 🙂

  13. Michael Elling

    Wonder what you think of the outlook for high-definition (1080p on 45+ inch wall screens) video calling. If it is ubiquitous, will it help make one-on-one calls more productive?

    1. LE

      Face to face and/or video telegraphs many cues that audio alone does not. That can be good or it can be bad depending on who the participants are and what their objectives are. Would take a great deal more preparation on the part of the person calling the board member to remember to control and direct any outward display of emotion that could create the wrong impression. (Audio also has this but it’s a bit easier to prepare and control..)

      1. Michael Elling

        Agreed. There is a lot of excitement about video collaboration and it could certainly have a very real substitute and stimulative effect on the economy. That said, we’re not there yet in terms of accepted social and conversational norms. Nor are the networks there yet. Feel like the fax machine circa 1979. Once the pieces fall in place it will be transformative and everyone will have to “be on”.

    2. JLM

      .OMG, you’re kidding me, right? I’ve been doing this for years. With Chromecast and Skype/Hangouts/Adobe, it’s incredible.One day, I had convos with people in Kiev, London, Seoul, Waterloo, California, NYC and from my office to my wife’s — a distance of less than 60′.One note — these HD cameras as so damn clear, I don’t want to see people at that scale and at that level of resolution. BTW, I may need to trim my eyebrows.I just engadgeted myself with a Samsung S2 tablet. I am likely to get their big new one. I think it’s 18″.You see so much more when you see so much more.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  14. someone

    thanks, will use this in my class on startup boards later in the semester

  15. John Pepper

    Kevin Reddy, current CEO of Noodles & Co. and former COO of Chipotle and a long-time member of my board until last year, gave me this exact same advice. I followed it half the time (he would say less, I think). And that half of the time I didn’t follow the advice I would regret it. Make the calls. And listen to your mentors.

    1. LE

      I went to see who you were and your twitter account is suspended. Did you know that? Just thought I’d point that out.Separately: Disqus should hyperlink twitter handles in profile displays.

      1. John Pepper

        I forgot to update it. Try @bolococeo. Thx!

        1. LE

          See now you just jumped several notches in my ranking system just for being a private pilot.(You also need hyperlinks all over the place (like on your blog) to eeapp)

        2. Matt Zagaja

          I’ve gotten in the habit of picking up a breakfast burrito from the Boloco down the street from me (at Mt. Auburn) on Sunday mornings. Was pretty sad when they were closed during mornings at the beginning of January. Starbucks breakfast sandwich isn’t as satisfying. Would love it if the store supported Apple Pay so I could pay with my watch. Keep up the good work.

          1. John Pepper

            Matt, thanks for the feedback. The difficult truth is that breakfast doesn’t work at Boloco… other than in 3 restaurants in the financial district. It’s going to kill me personally when this happens, but soon we will actually have to discontinue breakfast altogether other than downtown. Painful to be typing this to be honest… can you do me a favor and send me your email address (to pepper @boloco dot com) and I’ll pop an e-card your way for your next couple of visits. Its the least I can do… sorry in advance.John

  16. awaldstein

    Been working the phones my entire career.Now I do it more precisely and efficiently with so many more options.

  17. Richard Heitzmann

    I completely agree with this structure – it really raises the quality of conversations at the Board level by eliminating the “reporting” part. It also forces accountability on the Board members to be thoughtful and go through the presentation and give good feedback days before the meeting

  18. rickfield

    I strongly agree with this approach. In a prior career in TV, we would say it another but similar way: production is nothing more than the result of well-executed pre-production.

  19. Adam Sher

    Would you consider this in the same realm of importance for a company that only has an advisory board? Or bootstrapped startups that may have independent board members? The insiders typically know what’s going on.

  20. sigmaalgebra

    For all that, might be able to write another 500 lines of code, say, do better analysis of responses to the ads, of the Web site log file, get going on the next version of the production code, get some bids on some new floor space, get some new hires able to plug together a rack of new servers, get someone going with VMWare or CloudFlare, etc.Right, let’s see: For a CEO, 90% of the job is care, feeding, and entertaining the BoD; 90% is recruiting terrific people to delegate the work to, e.g., something like Admiral Rickover did; 90% is raising money; 90% is doing the work; 90% is managing the C-level people; 90% is staying in touch with, motivating, inspiring the worker bees; 90% is ABC, always be closing; 90% is …Q 1: How the heck does the CEO get any work done? Looks like he is all talk and no actual work. Looks like he was promoted from a good founder to a lot of stuff that is at best an indirect contribution to the growth and value of the company and not good.If the time is really no more than three hours per quarterly BoD meeting, maybe so. Somehow it sounds like more, much more.

  21. Vadim Komisarchik

    Great post Fred!

  22. Mark Moran

    Laying the groundwork ahead of time means you likely have much less follow-up to do afterwards, because you’ll know board members’ questions and concerns ahead of time, and will be much less likely to have to say “I’ll look into it and get back to you.” As the general counsel of a public company for a long time, we took this one step further. We sent an update to the board every Monday night, without fail. It began in the dark days of the Internet bust, out of necessity, but it continued through less stressful days, even when the report was no more than two paragraphs. Whenever a board member had a question about an item, he or she called the CEO the next day and weighed in, and directors even called each other. Board meetings became much shorter, with few surprises or contentious discussions. When the company was sold, the one shareholder suit that was filed was quickly dropped when the plaintiffs’ counsel saw the voluminous record we had of keeping the board fully informed.

  23. awaldstein

    So well said my friend.

  24. fredwilson

    Rule #1 in life – avoid a vacuum

  25. LE

    Nice thoughts.will drink the sand because they’re so thirsty for leadershipAlternate: “will eat the stale bread because they are hungry for leadership”.

  26. Tom Labus

    Great post.

  27. fredwilson

    that is rule 0

  28. Twain Twain

    So … here’s the thing … our human brains evolved from its reptilian core with its sense of consideration (thinking with care). This is what helped us to socialize, communicate and develop communities.This later informed the development of our limbic brain which governs language, behavior and cultures.Then, later still, our neocortex abilities developed (mathematical ability: logic, mechanics, probability & statistics etc.).Now, bizarrely, Silicon Valley has decided to invert this in Machine Intelligence design. Panasonic’s SV Lab being an example (photo taken at Deep Learning Summit 2016 last week).Even more paradoxically, AI researchers worry about “killer robots” but it completely bypasses them that by putting logic+reasoning+ pattern recognition at the core of how the machine minds work and adding “feelings as the final layer” (an afterthought) …. that makes the machines think very very differently from human intelligence.Their default core is not to “be loving”. It’s to logic. This means they’d have no feelings for Humankind and treat us as merely opponents in a strategy optimization game (as DeepMind beating Go has shown).Yes, I asked Panasonic’s guy why they’d inverted the brain structure model when their strategic objective is to get the machines to think more like humans so they can support decision-making and human+machine coherency.@fredwilson:disqus – My life would be easier if I stayed in London and just let SV continue to build the wrong models for AI but it’s not going to be great for Humankind if we can’t restore consideration (thinking with care) into the core structures of AI before it’s too late.Besides which, there’s no way the machines will be able to understand our Natural Language and its meanings without the ability to “be loving” and reflect human empathy.That’s why in Oct 2012, I asked Amit Singhal: “Will Google’s Star Trek engine have a heart?” which flummoxed him somewhat.And what happened in Nov 2015? Amit said in a ‘Time’ interview: “Meaning is something that has eluded computer science.”Well, of course, it has!Meaning is … PERCEPTUAL, emotional, at the core of human intelligence not an outer final layer!

  29. Twain Twain

    Human rules like “be loving” are very different from the rules being frameworked into the machines.Their Rule 0 is “Logic first.”Rule 1 is “Pattern recognize.”Rule 2 is “Optimize.”That’s why it will be very different when AI takes over white-collar jobs like tech investment, legal interpretation and medical prognosis and remove empathy, consideration and humanness from decision-making.