When the chairman and CEO create "chemistry", they can allow the structure of their mandates to serve their relationship and the collaboration it generates. But when chemistry is lacking, the relationship becomes the primary driver of both governance and growth.
This is the view of Omer Soker, CEO of The Ethics of Success Corporation, who warns that it is because of their big personalities, fierce intellects and high stakes that the chairman and CEO then must let go of their egos and function within defined boundaries.
There is no evidence to show that a dysfunctional relationship between the two benefits an organisation and it is a sage reminder that the same rules of engagement and expectations apply to directors at a board meeting, as they do for junior staffers in a departmental gathering.
"There is nothing unique or mysterious about board meetings. It's just a group of human beings with a job to do and a company to serve, where collaboration and function must take precedence over prestige," says Soker. He highlights four areas to consider for improved boardroom relations:
- A seat on the board is not a passive perk, but an active responsibility. Directors who do their homework, and come prepared to engage the CEO in robust discussion, add value at every meeting. CEOs want access to the diversity of opinion directors can bring and need to embrace the open conflict and debate it inevitably ignites. Directors are there to create the spark.
- The chairman cannot seek to control, constrict or rein in the CEO by force, because the relationship pattern established here will be repeated and cascaded throughout the organisation. A restricted CEO restricts those below him or her. The CEO needs to be either engaged or his or her future needs to be re-considered – just like all other healthy relationships.
- Directors must align their values and objectives with those of the organisation and become a cohesive, collaborative and proactive group. If the board cannot achieve this in itself, how can it expect the CEO to deliver the same from his or her departments and teams?
- The pretence and charades associated with stagnant boards need to be eliminated as a requirement for a healthy, well-functioning unit. The old adage that "cleverness divides, but intelligence unites" is all the more pertinent to boardroom relations which, by necessity, boast a plethora of cleverness. In turn, a transparent and objective board will be met with less obfuscation from the CEO.
Soker says humility, integrity and productivity is the best tone from the top that any organisation can have. These create the deeper thinking that serves as the catalyst for both good governance and management.
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