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Executive Sessions and Continuous Feedback


I’ve written about these two related but different topics before but I’ve been doing a lot of board meetings as we kick off 2019 and I am reminded of how important both are. At the end of every board meeting, the board should meet alone with the CEO in an executive session, followed by a session without the CEO, followed by a session where at least one director, but possibly all of the directors, meet again with the CEO. This requires a fair bit of time to do right. These three back to back sessions will easily take thirty minutes to do right and could take as much as an hour. When a board meeting goes three or four hours, it is tempting to wrap when everyone has “hard stops” and punt on these executive sessions. But that would be a big mistake. CEOs need to know where the board stands on the meeting, the big issues, the team, the strategy, and most importantly the performance of the CEO. And CEOs need to know that in real time and all the time. The big problems that I have run into with companies over the years often have to do with misalignment between a management team and the board, and most acutely misalignment between a CEO and the board. A process by which the CEO gets real time, regular, in person feedback from the board will alleviate many of these issues. These can be hard conversations and they can be difficult for the CEO to understand and process. None of this is easy stuff. But when people know where they stand and can react to it, things go better. It is when people don’t know where they stand and are grasping for straws when things go most badly off the rails. The executive session/feedback process is also used by audit committees to manage the relationships between the board, CFO, and external auditors. I have found that they are incredibly important in that setting too. If you aren’t doing executive sessions with your board, start doing them. And if you do them, but you skimp on them frequently due to time issues, shorten your board meetings and protect your executive session time. These sessions need to come last and that makes protecting them challenging but I believe a board meeting without an executive session is a bad board meeting. https://avc.com/2019/01/executive-sessions-and-continuous-feedback/

Executive Sessions and Continuous Feedback1


I’ve written about these two related but different topics before but I’ve been doing a lot of board meetings as we kick off 2019 and I am reminded of how important both are. At the end of every board meeting, the board should meet alone with the CEO in an executive session, followed by a session without the CEO, followed by a session where at least one director, but possibly all of the directors, meet again with the CEO. This requires a fair bit of time to do right. These three back to back sessions will easily take thirty minutes to do right and could take as much as an hour. When a board meeting goes three or four hours, it is tempting to wrap when everyone has “hard stops” and punt on these executive sessions. But that would be a big mistake. CEOs need to know where the board stands on the meeting, the big issues, the team, the strategy, and most importantly the performance of the CEO. And CEOs need to know that in real time and all the time. The big problems that I have run into with companies over the years often have to do with misalignment between a management team and the board, and most acutely misalignment between a CEO and the board. A process by which the CEO gets real time, regular, in person feedback from the board will alleviate many of these issues. These can be hard conversations and they can be difficult for the CEO to understand and process. None of this is easy stuff. But when people know where they stand and can react to it, things go better. It is when people don’t know where they stand and are grasping for straws when things go most badly off the rails. The executive session/feedback process is also used by audit committees to manage the relationships between the board, CFO, and external auditors. I have found that they are incredibly important in that setting too. If you aren’t doing executive sessions with your board, start doing them. And if you do them, but you skimp on them frequently due to time issues, shorten your board meetings and protect your executive session time. These sessions need to come last and that makes protecting them challenging but I believe a board meeting without an executive session is a bad board meeting. https://avc.com/2019/01/executive-sessions-and-continuous-feedback/

Executive Sessions and Continuous Feedback1


I’ve written about these two related but different topics before but I’ve been doing a lot of board meetings as we kick off 2019 and I am reminded of how important both are. At the end of every board meeting, the board should meet alone with the CEO in an executive session, followed by a session without the CEO, followed by a session where at least one director, but possibly all of the directors, meet again with the CEO. This requires a fair bit of time to do right. These three back to back sessions will easily take thirty minutes to do right and could take as much as an hour. When a board meeting goes three or four hours, it is tempting to wrap when everyone has “hard stops” and punt on these executive sessions. But that would be a big mistake. CEOs need to know where the board stands on the meeting, the big issues, the team, the strategy, and most importantly the performance of the CEO. And CEOs need to know that in real time and all the time. The big problems that I have run into with companies over the years often have to do with misalignment between a management team and the board, and most acutely misalignment between a CEO and the board. A process by which the CEO gets real time, regular, in person feedback from the board will alleviate many of these issues. These can be hard conversations and they can be difficult for the CEO to understand and process. None of this is easy stuff. But when people know where they stand and can react to it, things go better. It is when people don’t know where they stand and are grasping for straws when things go most badly off the rails. The executive session/feedback process is also used by audit committees to manage the relationships between the board, CFO, and external auditors. I have found that they are incredibly important in that setting too. If you aren’t doing executive sessions with your board, start doing them. And if you do them, but you skimp on them frequently due to time issues, shorten your board meetings and protect your executive session time. These sessions need to come last and that makes protecting them challenging but I believe a board meeting without an executive session is a bad board meeting. https://avc.com/2019/01/executive-sessions-and-continuous-feedback/

“If The Train Is Delayed, Find Another Way Home”1


I worked for a man named Bliss McCrum (and his partner Milton Pappas) in my mid 20s. They taught me the venture capital business. They were in their 50s, around my age, at that time. Bliss one time gave me this business travel advice. He said, if the train is delayed or stops at a station and can’t move, get off the train and find another way home. His experience told him that once delays start happening, they tend to get worse, and you are better served by ditching plan A and finding a plan B. I have used that advice many times over the years, and while it is not perfect, it has been on point more often than off point. Today I had a 6:30am flight to SFO from LAX. When I picked up my phone as I was leaving the house for the airport, I saw a text from Alaska Airlines that my flight had been cancelled and they were booking me on the next flight. Bliss popped into my head and I thought, “I’m going to get to LAX and get on the 7am flight that I usually take.” I had wanted to get to SF super early today so I booked the first flight out of LAX to SFO instead of my usual 7am flight. Once I got to LAX, I was able to get onto the 7am flight, and then headed to the gate where my new flight was leaving from. That required getting on a bus and heading to a new terminal. This is what the guts of LAX look like at 6am. Once I got to my gate, I learned that my 7am flight was delayed into SFO by 90 minutes, thus pushing my arrival back two hours from when I wanted to be there. Again Bliss entered my head and I thought “what about San Jose?”. So I went to the board and saw that there was a 7:30am flight getting into San Jose at 8:50. I went to the service desk and asked if there were any delays getting into San Jose this morning and was told there were not. So I swapped my SFO ticket for a SJC ticket and got basically the same seat on a similar plane. I’m in the air to SJC right now and hope to land in about 30 mins\utes and then get in a car and be taken the hour+ that it will take to get to into San Francisco. But at least I can call into the start of my meeting instead of missing the first couple hours completely. I have to thank Bliss for the inspiration to scramble today instead of just taking what the airlines were giving me and being chill about it. I think it worked out well and I’m going to be able to participate in the entirety of my meeting today. Thanks Bliss. https://avc.com/2019/01/if-the-train-is-delayed-find-another-way-home/

“If The Train Is Delayed, Find Another Way Home”1


I worked for a man named Bliss McCrum (and his partner Milton Pappas) in my mid 20s. They taught me the venture capital business. They were in their 50s, around my age, at that time. Bliss one time gave me this business travel advice. He said, if the train is delayed or stops at a station and can’t move, get off the train and find another way home. His experience told him that once delays start happening, they tend to get worse, and you are better served by ditching plan A and finding a plan B. I have used that advice many times over the years, and while it is not perfect, it has been on point more often than off point. Today I had a 6:30am flight to SFO from LAX. When I picked up my phone as I was leaving the house for the airport, I saw a text from Alaska Airlines that my flight had been cancelled and they were booking me on the next flight. Bliss popped into my head and I thought, “I’m going to get to LAX and get on the 7am flight that I usually take.” I had wanted to get to SF super early today so I booked the first flight out of LAX to SFO instead of my usual 7am flight. Once I got to LAX, I was able to get onto the 7am flight, and then headed to the gate where my new flight was leaving from. That required getting on a bus and heading to a new terminal. This is what the guts of LAX look like at 6am. Once I got to my gate, I learned that my 7am flight was delayed into SFO by 90 minutes, thus pushing my arrival back two hours from when I wanted to be there. Again Bliss entered my head and I thought “what about San Jose?”. So I went to the board and saw that there was a 7:30am flight getting into San Jose at 8:50. I went to the service desk and asked if there were any delays getting into San Jose this morning and was told there were not. So I swapped my SFO ticket for a SJC ticket and got basically the same seat on a similar plane. I’m in the air to SJC right now and hope to land in about 30 mins\utes and then get in a car and be taken the hour+ that it will take to get to into San Francisco. But at least I can call into the start of my meeting instead of missing the first couple hours completely. I have to thank Bliss for the inspiration to scramble today instead of just taking what the airlines were giving me and being chill about it. I think it worked out well and I’m going to be able to participate in the entirety of my meeting today. Thanks Bliss. https://avc.com/2019/01/if-the-train-is-delayed-find-another-way-home/