Leading a High Performing Board: The Relationship Between Business Owner And Outside Board | Aileron

Having an outside board for your business is one of the wisest decisions you can make for your company. This small group of professionals lends their time and expertise to support your company’s vision and help you grow. They can be key to a company’s sustainability.

The benefits of working with an outside board are wide-ranging. You can read more about what they do and how they make an impact in this post: What is a High Performing Board?

Now, let’s take a deep dive into the relationship between a business owner and their board. Strengthening this collaborative dynamic can be game-changing for your business.

The Board Serves the Business Owner

A common misconception for business owners is that working with an outside board means they’re ceding control of the company. It’s important to remember that you’re not handing over the reins of your business to others; you’re leveraging their expertise so that you can make decisions that will strengthen your company.

Effective boards don’t control your organization in an effort to do your job — they consider how they can support you and your vision, and provide the means for you to reach your potential. They pose questions instead of issuing demands. They stay open-minded and collaborative, rather than judgemental and critical. They seek to understand and support, not to flex authority.

Leading an Outside Board as a Business Owner

Owning a business comes with as many challenges as rewards. The hours can be long, managing people and teams can be complex, and there’s a considerable weight of responsibility on your shoulders. For these reasons alone, a business owner needs to establish an outside board — because while you’re supporting your business, the board supports you.

A constructive relationship with your board depends on understanding and respecting each other’s roles and responsibilities. Board members are not part of the business’s daily operations; rather, board members rely on your input as business owner so they can give feedback and support in the areas you need.

The business owner’s responsibilities to the board include:

  • Controlling the agenda: You know the ins and outs of your business; your board defers to you to learn what you need by way of guidance, resources, and perspective.
  • Concentrating on major issues: Step out of the daily grind and focus on the problems that need attention; your board is there to find solutions.
  • Focusing on the ends to be achieved: You have goals for your business, and your board is there to help you navigate and achieve them.
  • Striving for partnership: Board members serve you and your business; approach your relationship with them as a way to achieve success together.
  • Understanding perspectives: When disagreements happen, seek to understand the board member’s point of view as partners who support one another and not as opponents who are competing against one another.

“If you’re willing to work and subject yourself to the scrutiny of others, creating a board is the best investment you’ll ever make in your life.” — Clay Mathile, Aileron’s founder

Being an Effective Member of an Outside Board

If you’re a member of the board, you’ve been asked to fulfill this role for a reason. You have experiences, thought leadership, and perspectives that can strengthen a business and set it on a path toward longevity; it’s a privilege to serve in this role. Here are ways you can maximize the relationship with the business owner.

The board’s responsibilities to the business owner include:

  • Participating: As simple as it seems, it’s crucial for you to be present, constructive, and curious. The business owner relies on your feedback.
  • Being part of the group, and be responsible for the group: Collaboration and thinking about the greater whole are essential to guiding the business where it needs to go.
  • Suspending judgement: Remember that the board serves the organization; it’s not about being right, but rather, being supportive.
  • Guiding—not controlling: It’s the business owner’s job to run their company, and you’re there to help meet their needs. Treat them as your equal.
  • Asking—not telling: Empower the business owner to make decisions with consideration of your feedback; avoid making executive decisions for them.
  • Seeking diverse opinions: Curiosity leads to innovative ideas, and this can’t happen without considering new and different perspectives.
  • Being present for the whole business owner: Leading an organization requires professional prowess and personal wellbeing; be there for them for both.

How to Optimize The Business Owner-Board Relationship

Board members and business owners alike can learn to strengthen their relationship by learning the fundamentals of conscious leadership. This practice and philosophy make room for deeper understanding, better problem solving, and more constructive communication, both individually and interpersonally. Learn more about each of these principles in our Becoming a Conscious Leader blog series:

Aileron also teaches these principles in person through our Becoming a More Conscious Leader program.

Are you thinking about creating a board for your business, or strengthening the relationship you already have? Aileron offers powerful insights and tools to support your needs.

Through in-person workshops with like-minded professionals who have similar needs and goals, we show you how you can optimize this crucial relationship so that your business and your board succeed, together.