“As my friends and colleagues are tired of hearing me say, I’ve never seen a board guarantee an organization’s success, but I have seen a board guarantee its failure.” – Jerry Colonna
Board issues are one of the larger themes we tend to help clients with, namely because if you have a board there are likely to be issues. Things will happen with boards that cause entrepreneurs to scratch their heads, feel stuck, or become downright infuriated. In Jerry’s latest piece on his Marker column, “Why the Hell Does My Board Act that Way?”, he talks about why a good board–meaning a well-functioning board–can be so critical to avoiding failure of the company.
Not all of our clients have large boards. As they grow, they begin to consider not only how they need the board to function and what roles on the board are needed most. In a sense, they begin to design and buildout, with careful consideration, a board that dreams are made of (yes, these do exist!). A well-functioning board knows their roles and the role of the CEO. They abide by appropriate communication channels and appropriate communication techniques. A well-functioning board is not too different than a well-run team in that sense.
If crap hits the fan in the company, it helps to have a good board to help give feedback and provide perspective and support when and where needed. They can help identify blind spots and potential threats to the company. They stand by to assist the CEO with what’s being brought to them and asked of them by the CEO. All of this runs well when the relationships are lubricated by trust. In this podcast episode from Season One of the Reboot Podcast, Jerry talks with Fred Wilson about trust and why it’s mission-critical when it comes to your board.
Imagine, if you can, stories of board successes that are built on trust in each other on all sides of the table. It’s a less dramatic tale than the alternative, yet a very possible feat.
Here are a handful of board resources to help you through some sticky spots, or help you think about the board you want to create.
- Navigating Board Dynamics: Navigating challenging board dynamics? We’ve worked with many a client who has gone through tough spots with boards, need help understanding their board dynamics, or have challenging board members. Here are some of the common challenges that we see clients experiencing and how those challenges shift as the organization grows and scales, along with some effective approaches to creating a high-functioning board. “Some of the worst, most dysfunctional boards happen when the CEO became an employee of the board. It’s good to understand these are the people that wrote the checks, but you need to take your seat as CEO.”
- The Reboot Podcast: #70 – The Inner-Workings of a Good Board – with Brad Feld & Fred Wilson: How can you expect to serve others, whether it be customers, portfolio companies, or your organization if your own house is not in order? In this episode that we originally ran last summer, we welcome Brad Feld and Fred Wilson back to the Reboot Podcast. Jerry, Brad, and Fred have a friendship and history that goes back 20 years, and the wealth of experience between them as entrepreneurs and investors is truly incredible. Fred, Brad, and Jerry share stories from the past, moments where they were pushed to their limits physically and emotionally. They talk about the critical steps they’ve taken to being an effective and supportive board member and investor, and how the lessons from past painful experiences show up in the values of their firms.
- Reboot Your Board Course: When done well, the board-CEO partnership can help each party grow and become the best possible person they can be–all while supporting the core purpose and mission of the business. In this 4-day course, we take you through the practical challenges of growing and developing a high functioning board.
- The Reboot Podcast: #45 – What’s Love Got to Do With It? with Brad Feld and Fred Wilson: How can you expect to serve others, whether it be customers, portfolio companies, or your organization if your own house is not in order? In this episode, Fred, Brad, and Jerry talk about the critical steps they’ve taken to being an effective and supportive board member and investor, and how the lessons from past painful experiences show up in the values of their firms.
- Why the Hell Does My Board Act Like That?: The tension between CEOs and their boards is real, but it doesn’t have to be fatal. “As my friends and colleagues are tired of hearing me say, I’ve never seen a board guarantee an organization’s success, but I have seen a board guarantee its failure.” – Jerry Colonna
- The Reboot Podcast #54 – Hearts Broken Open: The Case for Conscious Leadership and Entrepreneurship – with Matt Munson: Fresh off an $8M round, Matt Munson led his team at Twenty20, a crowd-sourced commercial photography catalogue, in a radical pivot– changing the business model from B2C to B2B. The business seemed to be moving in the right direction, yet Matt began to feel crippling pressure to achieve more growth. This pressure, perhaps better defined as anxiety, quickly became all-consuming, permeating through the entire Twenty20 team. It wasn’t long until the company had reached another tipping point to survive. With the support of his board, Matt made the difficult decision to layoff nearly 80% of his staff and embrace a new path– one centered around simplicity, transparency, and embracing the open-hearted warrior within.