How can the Board and the Executive Team work effectively together?

There is much research and many tested models related to what makes for effective teams, including teams at the top – the board the senior executive team. Each of those two groups need to work effectively as their own team and work effectively with the other. This goes beyond collaboration; they need to maintain effective dynamics, a shared purpose, and a deep commitment to their team.

But what happens when these two teams come together to do important shared work?

The playing field here is different and existing models only take us so far. Trust, shared purpose, and healthy dynamics all remain important. But there is a necessary distance here, a sense of distinct identity that must be preserved. Both the board and the executive team deliver value in part by not being overly aligned, by retaining some space between them. Yet at the same time, they must somehow achieve openness, mutual commitment, and the ability to get work done.

WATSON’s board-executive teaming model identifies twelve characteristics that together represent effective board-executive teaming. Our model draws on top team effectiveness models that have been validated in research and consulting environments, and WATSON’s framework for good governance and healthy boardroom dynamics.

Taking the Assessment

You will be asked to rate a number of best practice statements on a scale of 1-5 (1 indicating a notable gap (i.e., we  are weak here in terms of consistency, skill, or effectiveness) and 5 indicating a notable strength (i.e., we do this consistently and effectively).

It may help with the assessment to think about the last few interactions between your board and executive team. Consider great successes in the past twelve months and also some things that have not gone so well. 

As a reminder, throughout the assessment, the “team” is about people coming together to do shared work. Our focus here is on when Boards and Executives need to work together; each are their own distinct team, but they constantly need to find ways to come together and be effective as a collective.

For example, on a regular basis Executives will spend time with the Board confirming plans and discussing progress and results. They will also bring critical issues to the Board for discussion, when they need the Board’s guidance or support for the path forward.

For those discussions and decisions to yield optimal outcomes, the collective group needs to be working as an aligned team, with clear rules of engagement and effective dynamics.

There are also larger examples, where there is complex work to do together. Examples include:

  • Directors and Executives coming together for a strategic planning retreat
  • The Board and Management discussing a key business decision, such as starting or stopping a line of business, setting a pace for transformation, or entering into a partnership
  • Executives engaging the Board in a conversation about a decision with a big financial impact (such cost-cutting measures, capital investments, compensation plans), with everyone wanting to be aligned in terms of principles, priorities and timing
  • The CEO and CHRO working closely with the Board or its committees to look at executive succession plans below the CEO, to ensure they have confidence that mission critical leadership will be in place, while respecting the CEO’s role

Select the "Next" button to begin your assessment.

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