Is Decision Making in Board Meetings Broken?
It All Begins with Diving, and Aristotle.
Adding Deep Dives Can Transform Your Board Meetings Forever.
Board meetings don’t have to be the most stressful and unproductive gatherings of mostly smart people ever. Really. But, flipping your board meeting won’t just happen magically. There is a quick and easy step you can execute to make it happen. And, like most of our greatest transformations, it all begins with diving, and Aristotle.
As most of you know, Aristotle was an awesome swimmer. But, he had terrible feet, likely the result of too much pontificating. So, every time Aristotle jumped into the water, his feet felt a sting.
Over the course of several years, Aristotle mapped out an entirely new way to get into the water. Aristotle called his method Ta Fidia Ankona, which translates roughly to The Snakes Elbow. Today, we know it simply as diving.
As Aristotle aged and his dream of swimming 1000 times around his ping pong table waned, he used his concept of the dive to conceptualize his idea for deeper strategic discussions during his board meetings. Today, we call these board discussions Deep Dives.
The Deep Dive
Deep Dives are the one or two or three most important strategic discussions you want to have with your board. And, at the risk of saying ‘gotta’…you gotta integrate Deep Dives as a part of your board meeting and prioritize ‘em.
Fred Wilson, who we admire more than anyone in the world (aside from Barry Sanders perhaps), said the following in a blog post:
Board meetings should be discussions. They should be interactive. They should have some structure. But they should not have too much structure. Some CEOs and Board Chairs make the mistake of driving the Board line by line through the agenda, cutting off meaty discussions in the name of staying on schedule. The purpose of Board meetings are to have these meaty discussions not to get through the agenda on time.
The purpose of the Deep Dive is to have the exact kind of important strategic discussion that Fred refers to. Deep Dives are meant to be forward-looking and hopefully help to unlock awesome value from your board members.
At our prior company, Moosejaw, examples of a Deep Dive may have been: Should we open shops in Canada or Should we expand into the surf and snowboard world or Should we make an acquisition in Europe?
Again, these are big decisions and the exact moments when you should be psyched for your board's feedback, banter, and any advice that can help you with better decision-making. These are the discussions that can really make board meetings pretty great.
So, when you’re crafting your board deck be sure to prioritize Deep Dives and call ‘em out specifically in any kind of messaging you’re sending across when you’re prepping your board members for your live meeting.
Many of your board deck sections are probably meant to update your board. That’s great but you don’t have to necessarily discuss these sections with your board and you certainly don’t need to go one page at a time through an old school deck when you’re in your live meeting. Rather, use the limited time you have with your board members to really get into it. At the risk of being repetitive, that’s what your Deep Dives are all about.
One more note…we’ve found it can be really helpful to pose a few questions to your board as a part of the Deep Dive section in your board materials. That way your board is better prepared to dig in and help.
So, if your Deep Dive is something like “Should we open 25 new stores in Europe”, your questions could be 1) “Some of your portfolio companies have a significant European presence right now. Any key learnings?” And, 2) “Will having an overseas presence, even if it’s net neutral for Ebitda, attract potential acquirers?”
Okay. I’m sure you get it and this is the longest post ever so I’ll stop typing now.
Also, here’s a link to Fred’s post that we referred to in case you want to check it out.
Now that’s all for real.
Decent Humans of Zeck