Two Big Mistakes Your CEO is Likely Making at Your Board Meeting

intentional practices Apr 29, 2024
Two Big Mistakes Your CEO Is Likely Making At Your Board Meeting


There is an interesting paradox that we seem to encounter over and over again. Chief executive officers look for ways to engage their board. Board members want to be more engaged. So why is there this gap? Well, here are two rather obvious reasons, and of course some suggestions.


The First Mistake Your CEO is Likely Making at Board Meetings


First, to state the obvious, the Board is the employer of its chief executive officer. Therefore, there is considerable merit in providing good news to the board. This may be in the form of monthly reports outlining major accomplishments of the organization, and it may be in the form of regular reports of new and well-used and well-loved programs and services.


But the board may be of greatest value to the CEO if they hear some of the “bad” news too. Some of the problems or issues that the organization faces. Some of the challenges on the horizon. Some of the concerns that the chief executive officer has about the organization, within the organization and the organization's place in the community landscape. Good news is not always the best news for a board.


Board members come to the table with expertise and connections and may be able to engage in problem-solving with the CEO to the benefit of the agency. Good news alone is not a reflection of the reality of the world today. And bad news is not a reflection of failure or lack of ability to proceed alone. Mix it up. Be loud and proud. But be also open and objective.

Share this article with your friends and colleagues!



The Second Mistake Your CEO is Likely Making at Board Meetings


Second, board members often feel like they are simply rubber-stamping the recommendations of the chief officer. Indeed, the CEO may feel ownership over a report and its recommendations and somewhat rejected if they are not approved. This is occasionally labelled as a trust issue, but it is simply independent board members exercising their best judgment.


Oddly, there are not many examples of the CEO taking forward an issue or problem, with the three options that were investigated, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and the recommendation thus being made. The board can then see the thinking of the CEO and senior staff and understand better why a particular option was chosen. They are better positioned to understand the choices that might have been made. They can also discuss the rationale for decisions more clearly in the community, should that occasion arise.


We have often said that there should be three distinct parts of an agenda. Information only (typically, the consent agenda). For Decision (those areas that require a decision to be made by the board). And For Exploration (those areas where it is clear from the outset that no decision will be taken but different suggestions and perspectives might be offered). The options might be discussed early in the For Exploration section or they may be under the For Decision section if the board is to make a specific decision. They could also be included in For Information simply indicating what the senior staff is examining at present.


We have talked often of different ways of engaging with the board. A simple change of perspective and approach may lead to greater engagement and a greater sense of ownership around the board table.


What approach do you take?


What are your main “pain points” dealing with board engagement?

What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!


Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.




Don't Miss Out!

Online Board Improvement Programs with Ken Haycock


The Board Member 101:

Your accelerated path to competence and confidence.

In this one-month course, you will move from feeling reticent and tentative to competent and confident, asking good questions and making great contributions. The course complements and reinforces your on-site orientation and opens new channels of communication and discussion. Four weeks. Two brief video lessons (watch at your convenience) per week plus downloadable handouts. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Register Now.




The Board Leader Academy:

A step-by-step guide to higher performance and impact.

Our spotlight course is designed for CEOs/Executive Directors, Board Chairs, and those who are interested in leadership positions on not-for-profit, for-impact boards. Six weeks. Three brief video lessons with handouts per week (watch at your convenience) plus additional downloadable resources. 30-day money-back guarantee.

Register now.






P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email.

Share this post:

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team. 

Don't worry, your information will not be shared or sold for any reason.