The CEO plays a crucial role in empowering the Board to govern well.
Key in this regard is maintaining effective lines of communication:
It is the responsibility of the Chief Executive to present the board with all relevant information on the current state of the organisation in terms of both progress made and challenges faced. Whilst it may not always be good news, it is vital that information is presented in an accurate, balanced, timely and succinct way. Keeping the board in the dark is counterproductive and will create an air of mistrust.
The CEO must therefore provide timely and accurate information to the Board to enable it to govern the organisation effectively. Specifically; the CEO should provide information to the Board that is:
–Forward looking. It should be longitudinal in scope and contextualised.
–Accurate. Information provided by the CEO to the Board must be accurate and transparent.
–Within a reasonable timeframe. The CEO must be willing to accommodate Board members outside commitments, and cannot expect the Board to work within the same timeframe as the executive staff. Specifically, key information documents like Board papers should be sent a minimum of 7 days in advance to allow Board members at least one weekend to digest them.
Good Communication with Chair
Having good lines of communication between the CEO and Chair is quintessential for the well-being of any organisation.
It must be remembered that together the Chair and the CEO stand at an important intersection, that of Governance and Management. It is essential that they communicate clearly and openly with each other so that all relevant information can be passed on to either the board or staff.
No Chair/CEO relationship is perfect, problems will inevitably arise and disagreements will be had. Whilst perfection is unattainable, the CEO and Chair must be able to foster a relationship that can bear the brunt of any hitches that will undoubtedly occur along the way. For the Chair, fostering such a relationship with his/her CEO calls for a careful balancing act. He/she must be supportive of the CEO but must also be willing to give constructive criticism whenever appropriate. A useful reminder for this is what Dorothy Dalton in her guide Good Governance: the Chair’s Role terms, being a ‘critical friend’.
For both, a relationship built on mutual trust and respect is essential.