As a board member of an SME or Nonprofit, preparing for the upcoming board meeting, you have lots of information to review and want to get to the important stuff quickly!
You don’t want to be nine pages in and still wondering if the new marketing programme is delivering results. Nor do you want to be forced to search old minutes for the performance targets you agreed to. Unfortunately, with poorly structured and unfocused CEO reports this sort of scenario is all too common. . It’s frustrating!!
Wouldn’t it be great if the first pages of the CEO’s report provided a concise summary of the business’ performance and needs, then it clearly outlined the key areas you need to prepare for? It would certainly reduce some of your frustrations and make things easier going to the next meeting.
Good news for SME’s and Nonprofits! Producing a CEO Report that delights the board, is very achievable, with a few key principles:
Get the Meeting Structure right
Directors often think the main purpose of a board meeting is to be briefed by the chief executive about “what’s going on”. Whereas, the main role of the board is to ensure the organisation is achieving what it should.
The Agenda is the centrepiece of every board meeting and should focus on key discussions and decisions, with supporting papers laying out context and relevant information.
A CEO Report is the ultimate supporting paper, laying out the general business context from which the reader can drill into more specific information for key decisions. The primary purpose of the CEO Report is therefore to provide a context whilst the agenda and specific supporting papers provide the detail to drive decisions.
Be clear about governance-level targets and concerns
For the CEO to produce a report that provides real value, the board (in conjunction with the CEO) must first clearly define the targets and outcomes that mark “success”. These measures guide what information is needed from the CEO and stops the CEO heading down a side alley.
It also ensures the CEO Report is future-focused, enabling the board to be more effective in supporting the CEO based on what might happen, rather than reacting to what has already happened – which usually leads to ‘steering by looking in the rear vision mirror’.
Develop a CEO Report structure that works for your SME or Nonprofit
Once targets have been clearly defined, the CEO should be able to produce a report that clearly and easily gives the board the information they need. As a rule, the first two pages should be enough for board members to gather a broad understanding of the position of the business, without having to read any further.
The CEO Report template should cover all the main components, such as:
- Key metrics (e.g. customer, financial and production)
- Key discussions and decisions for the upcoming meeting (should marry in with the agenda)
- Top of Mind for CEO- what’s keeping them awake at night
- Big Wins & Learnings
- CEO Summary (setting the scene for the board in a few sentences)
- Additional Metrics
If your organisation can implement these principles you’ll be well on the way to efficient preparation, productive meetings, and a smooth relationship between the board and CEO.
How to create a CEO report that delights your board
A recent BoardPro webinar discussed how creating a strong CEO report for a board is less of an art and more of a process.
Citing a Cambridge Business School study, BoardPro COO Kim Thibault explained that “board packs are getting bigger every year. And on average, a board member will spend up to just under four hours preparing for the board meeting and reading their board packs. And over half the board pack content is going unread.”
The webinar provides direct insights, experience and opinions of several senior members of BoardPro who also have and continue to serve in executive positions in other companies.
Combined, the group have seen thousands of board reports and in this webinar, speak on the common issues they witness among companies and deliveries, whether it’s the presentation itself or the report.
“I think one of the things CEOs really need to work on with the board is to keep reminding the board why they're there. The board is not there to meet. The board is there to make the choices that create the future for the communities they serve. And if they're going to make choices that create the future, they'd better have their eye on what the future might be, what it could be, and not just there to monitor staff. That's only a small part of what they do,” explained Steven Bowman, managing director of Conscious Governance.
There are several ways to create a CEO report that ensures that not only everyone in the room is aligned but that the present and future of the company is presented in a way that is really understood by members of the board.
One point that the speakers in the webinar continuously returned to was the importance of truly understanding who your audience is.
“The vast majority of CEOs have forgotten who their audience actually is [when it comes to their report], and their audience are the directors. And the purpose of a CEO report is to help the directors not only gain understanding but to think more strategically as well,” explained Herkt.
For example, some boards prefer to see reports in pictures and graphs, while others prefer a written means of delivering information. And, as a director, it is important to speak to the chair of the board to ensure that your report has been created in a way that is tailored for your audience.
Another aspect of creating a good CEO report that really hits home is timing.
For example, if the report is on operations and activity, it should belong at the end of the conversation as it’s less relevant. This is compared to if the report was on higher-level activity that will spark a strategic conversation, in which case the report would belong at the beginning of the meeting.
Another important aspect of delivering a strong CEO report and presentation is continuously coming back to the objective and purpose of the meeting.
“A great CEO’s report gets the board up to speed and guides directors to where the discussion should focus,” explained Ruth Medd Chair, Women on Boards.
It is important to remember that boards aren’t a part of the day-to-day operations and thus need a succinct explanation of where the company is currently at, what has been achieved and what the future looks like.
As a CEO, this is one of the key accountability moments of the year and therefore, acts as a rare opportunity to get some of the company’s key stakeholders aligned and up to scratch.
The webinar presenters emphasised the importance of what they coined, “looking forward” and “looking backward,” adding that the amount of how much you do of both is dependent on how long the company has been around. For example, it may be divided relatively evenly for a company that has been around for a while. However, for a start-up, more of the conversation may be around the future of the company rather than the backwards-looking things.
This is just a sneak peek of some of the discussions during the webinar. But, if you want to learn how to craft a strong CEO report for your next board meeting, watch the entire webinar here.
Watch the webinar here
Or listen to the podcast here
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