Most board meetings are a waste of time & resources.

Why? CEOs are keeping their board in the dark on the tough issues, serving up pageantry instead of honesty. Attentive cofounder Brian Long and I have been in hundreds of board meetings for Coinbase, HashiCorp, Attentive, Tap Commerce and many more over the past two decades. Here is our guide on how to turn board meetings into the most valuable three hours of the quarter.

The Problem:

Board meetings are superficial when you’re afraid of talking about the real issues. Revealing your company’s true challenges makes you feel insecure.

Deep down, many CEOs live in fear of their board & getting fired by them. Instead of going into the hard stuff, you flip through a pretty deck full of metrics.

💭If I only share good news, the VCs will be placated & I won’t get fired…

It's a myth: The last thing VCs want to do is fire their founder-CEO. You’re the biggest reason they believe in your company.

The Solution:

Learning to trust your board is the first step to running a great board meeting.

Board members should be your confidantes and collaborators. Keep them informed and engaged.

Minimize surprises. If you’re not sharing ugly truths, your board will seek them out themselves.

Your board is your strongest ally to supercharge your growth - only if you bring them in. They can:

🔭Spot obstacles early
💪Strengthen your exec suite
🤝Provide connections to customers, partners & more

Here’s Brian’s brilliant Framework and Timeline to flip board meetings into honest, needle-moving discussions.

📆1 week out:

  • Send a draft of the deck to your board w/ five bullets on trickiest issues in your sights. Include slides with metrics + departmental updates as the pre-read.
  • Brian shares w/ DocSend (also, 👀see who’s clicking on which slides + for how long).
  • Voice over the deck with a 10min Loom (Brian does it in one take). This saves the first 15 minutes of the meeting from a CEO soliloquy.
  • Packaged with the pre-read is a brief, open-ended Google Form survey to solicit honest feedback and uncomfortable discussion topics.

📆3 days out:

  • Compile the uncensored survey responses to create a brief agenda for a private conversation.
  • Decide who from your exec leadership team will join you in the room. Prep them with the tough topics for their department that they’ll be asked to address.

📅t=0: It’s go time!

  • Your board is prepared for a closed-door conversation about the 1-2, maybe 3, most important topics for the company.
  • Start by taking 5 minutes to acknowledge what’s going great; so you don’t over-rotate on constructive criticism.
  • Spend about 40 minutes per topic, with a short break in between. Three hours is often the sweet spot for Series B, C, D private companies - enough time for ample discussion without your board zoning out. You can do a board dinner the night before to improve rapport.
  • Consider taking real-time notes in a shared Google Doc. You’ll have a record of the advice board members gave, so if it changes over time, you can ask why. That context helps to develop a deeper understanding and higher trust between investors, the board and management.

📆30 days & 60 days later:

  • Hold half-hour update calls with your board, so they’re never surprised with new or changing information.

Stop fearing tough feedback that strengthens you and your company. Dedicate 3 hours to discuss big issues, opportunities and decisions w/ your board. Learn to trust your board & enjoy board meetings.

Try this approach at your next board meeting & tell us how this changes your board dynamics and relationships.

Go deeper by watching the full video with Brian and me:

For more excellent advice from a serial founder, including finding/testing product market fit, selling/marketing your new solution and mobilizing your financial/legal/compliance functions, read Brian’s new book, Problem Hunting.

Meet The Contributors