Building Your Relationship with Your Board

One of the most important relationships within an association is between the CEO and the Board. The Board’s role is to envision and develop strategy, and the CEO is there to operationalize that strategy, and most often, serves as a strategic partner. The relationship between the CEO and the Board can make or break an association.

Here are ten steps CEOs can take to improve their relationship with their Board of directors.

  1. Clarify Roles – Discuss the difference between the Board’s role and CEO’s. Be explicit and have a substantive discussion. Go beyond reading the text into the implications.
  2. Confirm Your Mandate – Every Board operates with a different mandate; confirm yours often and through discussion. Ground that mandate deep into the DNA of every board member.
  3. Build Relationships One at a Time – A strong, powerful, highly connective relationship with every board member is critical for success.
  4. Bring Your Best Game – As CEO, you’re the only person who interfaces with the Board, executive committee, members at large, committee leaders, thought leaders, partners, media, public, maybe even politicians. You can see farther than anyone else on multiple fronts. Bring your vision into the boardroom. Dare to be inspiring.
  5. Win Permission to Coach Board Members – Take time to help board members elevate their game. Acknowledge the success and use it to gain permission to step in, as needed, to help increase effectiveness.
  6. Listen to Build Rapport – The best way to influence people, and all the research bears this out, is listening. Understand where each board member is coming from so that you can speak directly to their worldview.
  7. Help Under-Performers – If you see someone who’s capable of giving more, help them get their game up. You never know why someone might be holding back, so get underneath and lift them from below.
  8. Tackle the Difficult Directors – Tackling difficult members is challenging, especially if it’s a chair or president. There are tactics you can use to address challenges – talk to other CEOs or call me. There’s always something that you can do to improve the performance of your Board.
  9. Build the Case for Change – Growth is the goal. Growth means change. Building the case for change at the board level gives you the mandate to take the necessary steps to propel your organization forward.
  10. Clarify the Group’s Goals – You have a mandate. You have individual relationships, and you have distinct roles. None of those things preclude the need for group goals. CEOs must understand the nuance and differentiation, what success looks like, and how success will be measured and recognized.

Those are my ten tips for building a relationship with your Board of directors, one of the most critical tasks you have as a CEO of your association.


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