How much do we really know about what makes a successful corporate board of directors? To be sure, we could stand to know more.
In an effort to add to this knowledge base, Deloitte initiated 50 conversations with Fortune 1000 CEOs about their perspective on corporate boards. A few themes emerged:
First, the board of the future, these CEOs say, will be focused largely on strategy, and the burden for making the board effective falls on the CEO. “The days of boards being a collection of the CEOs best friends are behind us,” Deloitte Insights reports.
As one CEO told Deloitte, “When a CEO complains about the board not doing much for them, in a sense, it is the CEO’s own fault for not having taken advantage of the fact that the board can be an ally and a strategic consultant.”
Second, central to board success is the CEO being transparent with it.
As one CEO put it, “I am very honest about the things that are problematic, as long as [directors] don’t kill me for telling them things aren’t perfect. It’s been refreshing for the board. You don’t have a company this size, and everything is perfect. It’s just not that way.”
Third, while human instinct might be to see tension with the board as a negative, disagreement is ultimately inevitable—and CEOs should embrace it, as long it can be remain constructive.
Sometimes, it is perfectly fine to acknowledge that more information is needed to build consensus and make strategically beneficial decisions.
“For example, if a board is divided over the need for a particular capital investment, identifying and naming the tension can clear the path toward identifying the underlying beliefs and assumptions in play, discussing what data is required to test them, and then deciding when and how to get that data,” Deloitte writes.