Everything you need to know about board management.
Learn how to build a board, master best practices for working with board members, and unlock your board’s most valuable resources and expertise.
Running an effective board takes more than just choosing the right people. You have to be intentional about how you want your board to function and actively manage your board to create relationships and practices that promote success.
Onboarding is the first (and most important) step in establishing your working relationship with any board member. Take your onboarding process seriously.
Make sure each new board member has access to all of the information they need to get started:
Bios and contact information for your leadership team and other board members
Clearly outlined expectations and rules of engagement
Past company updates, meeting materials, and board decisions
Full financial records
Any other background information and documentation
In addition to providing this information for onboarding, make sure your new board member has one-on-one time with you (and the rest of the leadership team as needed). Use that time to familiarize them with your company’s financials, business model, and objectives.
Make sure to check in with your new board members on a regular basis until they feel settled. Give them feedback on their engagement and allow them opportunities to ask questions.
Make sure your board members know what kind of involvement you’re looking for. If you expect your board to show up consistently, engage in conversation, and provide asynchronous support outside of meetings, make those expectations clear. It’s also important to make sure their understanding of your roles, vision, and values are aligned.
Ultimately, these expectations and practices will inform the culture of your board, so be intentional about the environment you’re creating. Changing an existing culture is much harder than cultivating the right one in the first place.
In addition to more general expectations, consider outlining specific rules of engagement for your board. You can include any specific rules (such as attendance requirements or meeting protocols) in your board’s official bylaws.
You can also set board term limits to help manage the inherent risk of bringing on a new board member. Board term limits establish the length of time each board member will serve on your board. This allows both you and your board members an easy out if it ends up not being a good fit. If everybody is happy at the end of the term, you can always extend it.
Don’t wait for quarterly board meetings to have important conversations with your board. Let your board know any time you make a breakthrough, run into a challenge, or advance toward your objectives.
Real-time communication can be immensely valuable to your company. By keeping your board in the loop about your progress, you’re enabling them to offer more useful and timely support. Plus, you can save valuable time during board meetings knowing your board is up-to-date on the latest information.
Making regular communication a habit will also help you build strong individual relationships with board members. This, in turn, helps build trust—an essential part of any effective board.
While you ultimately report to the board, it’s important to remember that the board exists to help you. Your board members should be actively engaged in your company’s growth and work alongside you to reach your goals.
Great board members will immerse themselves in this process without prompting, but you’ll make faster, more significant progress if you proactively reach out to your board members for help. Need to hire key leaders? Ask your board members for referrals. Planning your next round of fundraising? Ask your board to make introductions to people in their network.
Learning to delegate tasks and put your board members to work can be challenging, but it is absolutely vital to your long-term success.
Performance evaluations help ensure your board is healthy and working effectively. Ideally, evaluations should go both ways—your board needs to evaluate your performance as the founder/CEO, but you need to evaluate their performance as a board too. Schedule routine evaluations and make sure they get done.
Ultimately, it’s your job to make sure your board is working well, so hold your board members accountable and don’t be afraid to communicate feedback in a clear, timely, and constructive way.
The better you get at managing your board, the more equipped you’ll be to confidently lead your company. While your board members' opinions are important, in the end, your company is your responsibility. If your instincts are telling you to push back on your board’s advice, do it.