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Being Stable

“If we learn to sit still like a mountain in a hurricane, unprotected from the truth and vividness and the immediacy of simply being part of life, then we are not this separate being who has to have things turn out our way. When we stop resisting and let the weather simply flow through us, we can live our lives completely. It’s up to us.”

– Pema Chödrön, from Comfortable With Uncertainty

In a recent post called “New Venture Partner? Wisdom on Navigating Your Role,” I gathered wisdom that my colleagues and I share with clients who are new partners at venture firms. One of the salient questions underlying the piece is how to stay regulated in the face of all the stressful stuff less experienced VCs face in their role. Considering all that’s happened in the world of venture in the past 18 months, the markets are volatile and times are turbulent, and being a VC is a nerve-wracking experience. 

How can you be a mountain in a hurricane, as Pema notes in the quote above? What do you do when fear hits? 

Knowing what is in your scope of influence and what your responsibility is as a board member can help you assess how to step in and help when and if things start to go haywire in your founder’s organizations. “When fear hits, the first impulse is self-preservation —this is true for all humans. But this is especially so for investors and board members who have not lived through multiple downturns,” notes Jerry Colonna. 

“The consequence of not being able to self-soothe is that you are drawn to behaviors that would optimize your firm’s position in the company,” he underscores. “And to do so is a direct violation of your fiduciary responsibility to use your best business judgment to represent the best interest of all the shareholders, including even those individuals that hold just one stock option.” 

When fear takes over, it’s best to remember both your purpose and your responsibilities as a leader. Experienced board members and investors can see that storms like the current one are ‘living through another cycle.’ In this fresh podcast conversation with Aileen Lee from Cowboy Ventures and Brad Feld from Foundry Group, their discussion centers around how to be a useful board member in stormy times like these. 

When a lot of anxiety and a fair amount of panic happens, what is expected from a wise, steady hand to the CEO and leadership team of your founder’s companies? How does a seasoned board member handle themselves? How do you not project your anxiety onto your founders? What must new board members learn to be stable and clear thinking in cycles like this? If you’re a board member or investor, how are you showing up for your CEOs? If you’re a CEO, what makes now an excellent time to reboot your board relationship?

From how to have a healthy board to how to be a responsible board member, this conversation offers much to think about if you’re a board member, new VC, or CEO. 

  • How do you do your own critical thinking as a board member? 
  • How do you understand what’s really going on versus just playing a role? 
  • How can you be in service to that CEO, while sometimes delivering bad news?
  • Where are you not empathetic? Where are you not being direct? 
  • What is your model or training for how to be a responsible board member?
  • What are our standards of behavior on this board? How are we going to hold each other? 
  • How are you measuring board health? 

With their collective years of experience in venture coupled with their own self-awareness, this conversation between Aileen, Brad, and Jerry is incredibly timely. I suspect it will be refreshing for many entrepreneurs who have survived the past 18 months with their own boards.

PS. Ready to refresh your board or your model for being a good board member? Here are some additional resources:


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