Phil Morle 🖖🏻

Jan 11, 2022

What I am learning from the best board chairs - pt1

I am currently chairing 3 boards and learning what it takes to do the job well. I have seen that the most effective companies have people in the seat doing very specific things to get the best out of the experience in the room and to help the company decide.

I've been spending time with some of the best board chairs I know to ask them what they do.

I spoke to David Thodey. He was Chair of CSIRO at the time and is currently Chair of Tyro and Xero.

Here is my favourite tip from him.

At the start of a board meeting, ask one of the other directors to observe how we behave as a board to give feedback at the end of the meeting

Our goal is to develop the board into a cohesive unit, that improves over time and acts specifically on its own processes. Here's why this simple idea works for me.

#1. It is easy and non-threatening

It takes 30 seconds at the start of the meeting and 5 minutes at the end.

No one person is assessing the others. Everyone does it at some stage so we all become better at sharing feedback constructively.

#2. It is an explicit commitment to excellence

We all know that each board meeting is assessed.

When in the role of observer, we take notice of what works and what does not. Others know that we are paying attention to the process and lift our game.

We all like to think we are on top of our game always. But we are not.

#3. It generates different perspectives on what good performance looks like

Cycling through directors extracts the different perspectives from each person. A good board has a diversity of perspectives and this tip is way of consistently bringing that out and synthesising it as a group.

I'll share more insights that I pick up on my journey as an apprentice chair. I'd love to hear your ideas about what works. I am @philmorle on Twitter.

Phil Morle 🖖🏻

Partner at Main Sequence - a venture capital firm purpose built to create global companies from scientific ideas with the inventors who imagine them.