By Brian McKay
You’re growing or have grown. Now you are formed as an S-Corp or a C-Corp and have a board of directors that are tasked with oversight of major corporate decisions and looking out for the shareholders of the company. The board of directors can fire the CEO, invalidate executive decisions and impact executive hires. Yes, these people are important to your company’s success.
Some advice out there will say that the CEO should stack the board as much as possible to be friendly to her agenda and accepting of her vision. This is horrible advice. Stacking the board is only beneficial for a CEO that wants to protect her position and doesn’t really care about the future of the company.
A well comprised board of directors is diverse. Finding members of varying backgrounds and competencies will ensure a multitude of approaches to corporate initiatives and problems. The goal isn’t a constant fight, but a board that respects each other member’s approach and background as a way to look at issues in different lights. Basically, the approach to your board is to achieve creative tension, just as zenruption’s prior business articles have argued for creative tension in the organization’s employee makeup.
AS always, it is important to stress the value of creative tension to each person on the board. Even at the level of accomplished executive, it is easy to forget that always getting your way isn’t good business. Remember that even the best board makeup that strives for creative tension can also see it stifled by a few board members that dominate the conversation, or new members that are uncertain about presenting opposing views. Ideas might be missed in board conversations when presented by dominant CEO who also chairs the board.
There will always be situations that can stymie creative tension and it is best to find out what they are and press for a re-think. Annual evaluations of the board members should include their opinions, ideas that have been missed, areas where they feel pressured in dissenting opinions, etc. These evaluations are not a check the box Q&A, but are best administered anonymously by an independent third party that gets to the heart of attitudes and challenges facing the board of directors.
There is only one area that should be untouched by any board. That is the core beliefs and goals of the organization. A board is brought in to further those beliefs and goals, not challenge or change them. The heart of the company is not up for debate.
A board should never be one voice, but a multitude of them working to find the courses of action that are best for the health and future of the company. There is never a good reason to stack a board. If someone feels inclined to do so in order to maintain their position or agenda, they don’t deserve the position and their agenda is highly suspect.
A board with creative tension is necessary for a disruptor.
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption and has his MBA from Boise State University. He wants people to not agree with him and facilitate an exchange of ideas. The zenruption team often finds a ton of ways to disagree with him. After a few drinks, he gets harder to disagree with though.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license