One of the most frustrating things about Board meetings is that it is difficult for founders and CEOs to get feedback on them.
I’ve seen some interesting approaches to addressing this problem lately.
Some companies are sending around post meeting feedback forms and asking all attendees to fill them out.
Some CEOs have asked their Board members to send emails to them summarizing their thoughts and take aways after the meeting.
I am a fan of anything that produces meaningful feedback for management from Board meetings.
My preference is to build the feedback function right into the meeting with a post meeting executive session between the CEO and directors where the feedback is delivered face to face in real time.
The big challenge with the post meeting executive session is that all Board meetings seem to run over on time and the end of the meeting is a time crunch.
So making time for the executive session is often challenging. But it is worth it in my view.
Regardless of what technique you are using, if you are running Board meetings and not getting feedback on them, you are doing it wrong.
Face to face matters. There is no tech or platform that truly captures the gestures and humor of human interaction.
Quality of feedback is important too. Often, people confuse information with communications.“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” (George Bernard Shaw)
I have found it rare to construct a board with people who possess the intellectual caliber and continuous curiosity to be effective board members. Over time, much more often than not unfortunately, board meetings become a superficial ritual. Active investors would typically seek out the entrepreneurs more rigorously than wait for the board meetings, and high quality discussions tend to develop in private conversations. I don’t think it is anyone’s fault. Just the way things are given the different qualities in investors (or their representatives on the board).
For non-prof boards I sit on, we have used https://boardsource.org/ and gathered feedback systematically 2 times per year with decent results I think due to the 3rd party input on overall feedback. Have not used similar tool on our portfolio firm boards though maybe worth seeking out.
Our post meeting form is a quick 5 questions. Most responses are pretty generic but the one that separates the do-ers from the slackers is “did we discuss anything that you would like more information on?” This question has lead us to some great follow up conversations.
My experience was that the board members were not engaged with the company at all, except for a couple of hours for a board meeting every month or two. And even then, they came in and did their Blackberries most of the actual meeting time.
CONTRIBUTORS:When an Investor has successfully funded numerous startups, shown the minus touch, failed, redeemed themselves and has been appointed to board after board, when in the world do the smart people in the room actually realize they will be unable to benefit from the knowledge base of this Investor when they are on twenty other boards, running a company, etc.?We are not getting that the Investor decides eventually decides how many boards they will be on (We get the yelling at the screen no no the founders, other investors, etc assist in that decision.Who in the world would ever tell Peter Thiel (example) he could or wouldn’t be asked to serve on a board even when he may be on twenty boards?Especially when a company the Investor is on continues to under perform. The Investors ego will not allow them to resign. The countless examples.The Vulture, no wrong word, Raider no not quite there yet, Activist Investor will force them out. Why then?
I am working an anonymous feedback system for true unadulterated responses. Do you think that would work for your board room feedback?
I am not a fan of anonymous feedback. You should own your feedback. It’s like gossip when you don’t. I have tried, and I have watched it not work.It can quickly devolve into a witch hunt.Tell me what you like tell me what you don’t as Arnold says to my face.
I would hope that board members would be mature enough to have face to face commentary but was not sure if there would be an added benefit to having an anonymous portion of the situation as well. Sounds like our anonymous feedback solution would be more useful elsewhere. Thanks for the response!!
Don’t get me wrong follow your passion. And yes sometimes anonymous feedback is great.I don’t think it is in a relationship.
Really interesting Fred. I agree based on my experience. Is there a product somewhere in this?
Fred, Having served on more than 30 boards and advised directors and boards for many years through my NACD work, i have found that forcing the post meeting ex session to address such feedback without management present is the best solution. Yes, everyone’s tired, racing to get planes or to another meeting, but if it is understood to be part of the meeting, no matter what, it can take place. If run well by the chair be a very product practice. Your frustration is warranted and you should insist on it. Period.
In small boards this can often be as informal as a follow up meeting a couple hours later often should be set up at the same time as the board meeting cal invite.
At seed and series A, how big of a board do you recommend? (I have some board horror stories, and prefer small boards)
If post BM feedback sessions aim at improving BMs do they eventually disappear? What’s the happy state? Also — isn’t it ambitious to ask investors to be able to deliver quality feedback right after the BM without any time to step back & think?
Seems like, as with many things, it all comes down to preparation. How much “deep learning / thinking” time does a typical VC spend to prepare for a board meeting?
Funny that a 5 min phone call w each BoD wouldn’t;t suffice.CEO is on the hook for BoD meeting quality, so an hour of his time seems the right investment.
The feedback is just one aspect of a larger question related to the culture of this board.The culture of the board is a function of three key considerations: Openness, Communication and Learning.1. Openness: How do we ensure that all parties are honest and transparent and not feel compelled to spin everything in a positive light and not share bad news? The board will never get to the heart of the issues facing the company unless there is incredible candor from all parties.2. Communication – The What and How: How do we ensure that management provides ongoing and timely access to operational metrics and key issues facing the company? What are the handful of metrics that we will constantly track every week /month/quarter? What tools, if any, do we use to make this communication faster, easier and more effective?Ideally, the board meeting is not an one-time dump, but instead a natural culmination of key communication exchanges that have occurred over the quarter, driving key reviews and decisions.3. Learning:How do we ensure that board members become intimately familiar with the larger ecosystem in which the company operates, and the dynamics of the space? How can each member value-add in his/her unique way?New tools can help with (2) but (1) and (3) are really a function of the leadership and the care they take. Shit hits the fan mostly because of (1)
Every board meeting I know runs out of time, but schedule a day after/2 days after video retrospective, the sole purpose of which is to provide feedback.Or ensure there is a chance for a drink/light bite separate about an hour after the board meeting has finished (if people are coming in just for the day)
I’m on skype and hangouts all day.It helps me especially with international clients.But me–i’m all about the human touch in life and work, good news and bad.I just get on a plane and go do it. Work with people. Go out and drink with them.It’s a process in business and friendship.It takes that.It makes the good days better, the bad ones doable.