Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How to Talk to Your Board

Knowing how to manage a large corporation is not enough for a top executive. It is also crucial to know how to work with your board.

Before entering the boardroom, know who is sitting there and what their expectations are. The way board members think or grasp a particular situation may differ from yours. When you live a company daily, your appreciation of its subtleties, or your comprehension of its needs, will differ from those of someone who knows the company from afar. Therefore, learn who your board members are and present reports to them in the way that they want to hear them. Meet them on their terms.

Don't try to impress the board with fancy numbers, terms, and analyses. They know that you know all this. They want to know the bottom line without a lot of hype. However, don't underestimate their expectations. Present the risks and challenges that the company faces. Your job, after all, is to guide the company through these. They want to know how and how much.

Presenting confidence is vital. You are their person at the helm. When you exude confidence, the board feels comfortable that the company is in strong hands. When possible, don't go into the boardroom "cold turkey." Plan your presentation in advance. Know what you want to say and how to say it best. Also, prepare yourself for tough questions. The board expects you to have all the answers at your fingertips. Therefore, the more you prepare, the better you will appear.

As you make your presentation, keep an eye on your audience. Learn to read body language. Whatever it takes, avoid a bored board. If attention starts waning, it is time to switch gears and get their attention back. Work with them and they will work with you.

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