3.6.1 What the CEO should Expect from the Board

The previous section 3.6 Relationship between the Chairman and CEO can be expanded to discuss the expectations the CEO should have from the Board at large.  Brad Feld in his landmark book:  “Start-up Boards” quotes the CEO of JumpCloud[1] in listing 6 fundamental requirements which are paraphrased below:

  • Support:  The Board must be unequivocally supportive of the CEO in public and in private.  The CEO cannot feel confident in his decisions unless he knows the Board is backing him fully.  Undermining the CEO, apart from unnecessary creating conflict, can degrade morale of the entire team and hurt the performance of the company.
  •  Availability:  As mentioned in 3.1 Time Commitment, Directors need to be available on short notice to deal with issues quickly.
  • Strategic Advice:  Start-up CEOs often do not have the experience and depth to formulate strategic and exit strategies, especially when they are mired in the daily administrivia of a growing business.  Directors, with experience and time to consider options, must provide strategic advice in terms of the company’s value proposition, market opportunity, stage of development, etc. to guide the company and management in the right direction.  This is a key expectation for Directors to fill a crucial role.
  • Contacts and Relationships:  Directors with years of business experience have contacts and relationships which can help the company. 
  • Governance:  With quickly changing events, management can often overlook the checks and approvals instituted to ensure that there is due consideration before proceeding.  Monthly Board meetings, and continuous communication between them, give Directors the opportunity to probe management’s thinking and give timely advice.
  • Balance and Harmony:  Boards work best when there is a diversity of opinion that is sought and respected, and synthesized into a considered advice to the CEO.  It is the responsibility of the Board to develop a consensus, and not leave the CEO with conflicting advice and opinion.

[1] “Start-up Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors”, Brad Feld, Mahendra Ramsinghani, Wiley, 2014.