Situation: A company has a long-standing relationship with key partner which has become strained for the last 9 months due to a combination of conditions. The partner’s Board recently terminated their CEO and their management is now in flux. Is there an opportunity to reestablish the old relationship by approaching the partner’s Board and how would you go about reestablishing this key partner relationship?
Advice from the CEOs:
- At this point, the Board of the partner is likely focused on selecting a successor to the CEO, and dealing with internal matters in the interim. It may not be timely to approach them now, as they may dismiss your entreaty as a distraction.
- If this tactic is to work, you will need a champion within the partner to promote reestablishment of the relationship. Try to identify such a person and approach them individually instead of approaching the full Board. The champion may be a Board member or someone with whom the Board has a strong relationship. This carries less risk than approaching the full Board. If the champion is not receptive, your likelihood of success with the full Board is slim.
- Is there a past President or senior executive of the partner company with whom you have very good relations? An individual like this can act as a quasi-third party to help you to reestablish relationships with the Board or key management of the partner company.
- Because of the risk involved, it may be best to do this quietly through a party whom the potential champion will respect and listen to, and take the lead from the champion if this individual is supportive of your cause.
Situation: A company has a board which is uncomfortable with strategic issues. Faced with a strategic decision, they gravitate quickly to tactical issues. What can you do to increase the Board’s strategic focus?
Advice from the CEOs:
- Change the focus of your Board meetings.
- Change the agenda of Board meetings. Start with a review of the Strategic Plan and progress toward meeting the objectives of the Plan. Over time, input to the Plan grows as Board members become more comfortable with the strategic issues addressed in the Plan.
- Develop a Board Charter and annual objectives for the Board as a whole.
- If you have an individual on the Board who models or nearly models the behavior that you wish to see in the full Board, ask this individual chair a Board subcommittee to work on the Charter. Devote time at Board meeting to discussion of the subcommittee’s recommendations.
- Develop annual objectives for the Board, including both global objectives and specifically how you want individual members to contribute. Outline your most important expectations of the Board, what you need from them, and ask them to develop objectives to meet these needs and expectations.
- Start to proactively educate your Board on how they can be most helpful to the company.
- Gather benchmarking data from similar companies. Educate the Board on best Board practices.
- Look at the best performing companies in your industry – preferably organizations that do not compete directly with you – and ask to attend their Board meetings as a guest. You may want to take one of your own Board members along. Look for practices that will augment your meetings.
- Augment the Board with individuals who will help to steer it toward the strategic focus.
- As you begin to bring the right talent to the Board, recommend the creation of Board subcommittees to work on key strategic areas. At meetings, after the Strategic Plan update, the Subcommittees can formally present their updates to the Board for discussion and consideration. Choice of subcommittee chairs is important to success.
Key Words: Board, Strategy, Tactics, Agenda, Charter, Objectives, Accountability, Best Practices