As I shared in my last post, “CEO /Chair Synergy: The Four Pillars of a Solid Foundation,” when the CEO-Chair relationship is strong, it contributes to a positive board climate and dynamics, setting the organization up for greater success. Here are my 16 tips for these two important leaders that will support their synergy:
For the Chair:
- Support, mentor and advise the CEO. Maintain an open-door policy once the communication boundaries between the two of you are clear and agreed to.
- Appreciate the work and efforts of the executive team.
- Ask the right questions of your CEO to understand the logic behind selected strategic decisions, the overall organization’s performance and the executive team’s effectiveness.
- For corporate boards, don’t under-estimate the value of listening in on the earnings call. Review the earnings call with the CEO and the CFO. Compliment if warranted. Hold comments that are un-necessary. Constructively comment if you can add value. If unsure, seek the advice of a 3rd party or another director who can adequately advise the CEO.
- Stay current on strategy with the CEO, engaging and challenging without interfering.
- Openly address succession planning—it can be a sticky issue.
- Join another board that is led by a Chair and/or a CEO you respect. Continue to grow and learn being an independent director, observing another relationship and board dynamics involving a Chair and CEO.
- Don’t sit on so many boards that you can’t allocate the time to fuel the synergy of your relationship with the CEO.
For the CEO:
- Leverage your Chair whenever possible as your mentor and advisor.
- Provide access to the executive team so that the Chair can relate to their efforts and to facilitate succession planning.
- Welcome inquiries from your Chair, assuming that it is done right. Don’t feel scrutinized, but rightfully supported.
- For corporate boards, consider inviting your Chair to listen in on the earnings call. Review the earnings call with the Chair and the CFO.
- Invite observations from the board directors, the VP of HR, the legal counsel and the CFO about your relationship with the Chair. Don’t rely on your own lens.
- When frustrated or sensing potential friction with the Chair, don’t assume or blame. Reach out to the Chair, and candidly share your opinion about what bothers you.
- Be proactive in your succession planning. Don’t create an elephant in the boardroom for which there is no room.
- Join another board that is led by a Chair and/or a CEO you respect. Continue to grow and learn by being an independent director, observing another relationship and board dynamics involving a Chair and CEO.
To both the Chair and the CEO: You must clearly define and agree how to best communicate with each other, and be diplomatic in how you express yourselves. Be responsive to each other’s communication.
- Email: Routine matters, status of a deadline and meeting confirmation
- Phone call or remote online meeting: New strategic matters, potential board concerns
- In-person meetings: Red flags, urgent board concerning matters, relationship pillar breach
Make an agreement to address as many board concerns as possible so you’re on the same page before gathering in the boardroom. Don’t wait for the board meeting to define a process that works for issues that you can begin tackling together to maximize the outcome of the board meeting.
If both the Chair and the CEO are open minded, adaptable and willing to cultivate a healthy relationship, synergy and success will follow. Believing that you both can learn something from each other will make it so!