Denver-area venture capitalist Brad Feld tells of a board call yesterday for one of his companies. The CEO left the other board members thoroughly confused. (That’s never a good thing for any subordinate reporting to a superior, let alone for a CEO reporting to his board members.) The lesson learned was one that most executives can identify with, from both sides of the table:
I talked to the CEO today just to check in. We had a good call and we both reaffirmed that all was cool. He said he’d learned something important – that if he was just going to “think out loud” during a board meeting that he should preface this with a statement indicating this. I agreed that this was the right conclusion – that I’d much rather he “think out loud” vs. feel compelled to figure it out all.
My experience has been that outside board members are much happier when executives label their information as fact, projection, conjecture, speculation, etc. It helps the listeners assign the information they’re getting into the proper pigeonholes. It also gives the speaker an air of competence, which is certainly something a CEO wants when talking to his/her board.