Board (or Bored) Meetings

“Hedley Lamarr: ‘Meeting adjourned. Oh, I am sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to overstep my bounds. You say that.’
Governor Lepetomane: ‘What?’
Hedley Lamarr: ‘Meeting is adjourned.’
Governor Lepetomane: ‘It is?’
Hedley Lamarr: ‘No, you say that, Governor.’
Governor Lepetomane: ‘What?’
Hedley Lamarr: ‘Meeting is adjourned.’
Governor Lepetomane: ‘It is?’”
Dialogue from Blazing Saddles by Mel Brooks

You would laugh if I told you how many board meetings I have attended where the disorganization and lack of discipline reminded me of this scene from one of my favorite movies. I am amazed when entrepreneurs really go out of their way to recruit qualified people to join their board (regular or advisory) only to subject them to a dysfunctional meeting which in essence, negates the benefit these valuable resources can bring to the table. I cringe when I see them roll their eyes.

But all is not lost. There are three things I would suggest you focus on to convert these wasted opportunities into meaningful events.

First, bifurcate the formal “approval” portion of the meeting. Instead of interspersing required approvals with topics which might result in robust exchanges, have all the standard approval agenda items covered in a succinct manner. Now I do not mean to imply that you should give short shrift to key items that require discussion, but those that have been fully discussed and vetted should be the subject of brief motions and approvals so proper time can be spent on more significant issues.

Second, distribute information on key topics in advance. I once watched a pretty successful owner get dressed down by a Board for distributing a 20-page budget at a meeting and asking for immediate approval. The more he tried to limit discussion, the worse it became. A simple rule of thumb; if it is more than 2 pages, send it in advance.

Finally, don’t forget to discuss “future state.” So many of the meetings seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing current state that there is either no time (or participants are too exhausted) to cover developments like pending paradigm shifts. This usually happens with financial statements which though distributed in advance, seem to be destined to be discussed on a line-by-line basis. If you find this happening to you, take notes at two meetings noting common questions (and they will be apparent) and then use that information to prepare a summary that will accompany the financials distributed in advance. Surprising how that may help.

One side note. Good entrepreneurs are in contact with their board members in between meetings to get their temperature on various hot issues. It is always worthwhile knowing what the “judges” will find important before presenting a case.

So the simple advice is to spend a little time managing your board in this manner and you will turn those “bored” meetings into memorable gatherings of these valued advisors.

Advertisements

Team Building: Ideas to Keep in Mind

“There is no I in TEAM.” – attribution unknown

The importance of a management team to the success of any venture is a well-known business fact. I have blogged about this in the past and it has been the key focal point of investors for years. So given the fact that no man is an island and one needs a team to succeed, a great question for an early stage entrepreneur is where do you start?

I have had the chance to build a number of successful teams in my career but more importantly, I have watched some truly accomplished entrepreneurs build them on a greater scale and with much better results. So when I reflect on what seemed to work for all of us, I kept coming back to five ideas I would suggest you keep in mind as you start the most important task you have as a leader – – building the right team:

1. Think leaders and creators. One of my favorite clients would often remark that an idea of mine was “counterintuitive” and that is what you might be thinking here. You may feel that you are the leader, so maybe these traits are not as important for team members. The point is most businesses successfully build to scale by having a series of teams who use their creative capabilities to solve problems. If you need any proof of that, just read about NASA and the race to land on the moon.

2. Look for the same culture but different skill sets. My advice is culture trumps economics every time. So if you want to build a real team, make sure your key members share a common culture – that comfortable work environment, transparency and a sense of what is right and what is wrong that can overcome the absence of short-term financial rewards.

3. Those who share your vision are good; those that share your passion are great. I have mentioned in the past my client who used the phrase “I always admired a man who can stand up and say, you said it chief.” Everyone will see through someone who is a blind supporter of your vision or worse yet, overly passionate about it. Do not force this; spend the time to make sure each key team member is on the same page. I would prefer serious and dedicated strong silent support over the shallow cheerleader any day.

4. Seek those who seek challenges. The shortest and easiest road is not always the best. The odds of having to pivot at least once along the way is high and that means change, and change is a challenge many do not like to face. While being supportive is important, it is better to have members on the team who have the inner strength to help correct the ship versus fight a required change in direction.

5. Share the pie. How you do this is up to you. Whether you choose to reward every team member (I call it the chicken in every pot approach) or those leaders and drivers having the most impact, make sure you think of and reward those most responsible for helping you on your journey.

So there they are – – hopefully, some helpful ideas you can use as you build your team. And please try to avoid that self-centered promoting type even if they have a skill set that you need. That person never gets the point that there is no I in team.