Why you should engage your executive team in building your advisory board

By Marissa Levin Levin_Marissa

CEOs must remember that while all employees work for the same company, in some ways they all work for different companies. They are laser-focused on their specific organizational function, and this impacts how they see the company. For example, your financial team focuses only on ensuring the company is financially healthy to continue running. Your salespeople aren’t thinking about how much money is in the bank — they are focused only on how they can close more business. Everyone wears different hats, sees things differently and has different needs.

When it is time to build the advisory board and get the right people around the table, it will not serve your company to take a narrow, myopic view of needs.

The challenges of growth

I’m currently working with a rapidly growing government contractor on building an advisory board. The company is doing work for several agencies, but is looking to engage with a few others as well. In addition, the company is graduating from the 8(a) program in about four years, and wants to ensure it has plenty of full and open contracts by that point so it’s not dependent on set-aside revenue.

To prioritize expertise needs, I engaged five other stakeholders in the company, from various disciplines, including HR, marketing, technical development and sales. I facilitated an in-person meeting, with the business owners in the room as well. I assured all attendees that all information shared would be confidential, and that all contributors could feel comfortable knowing that the owners would not challenge their contributions.

After a 90-minute session, we concluded with a list of about 12 different types of required expertise.

Our next phase of work is to complete a “What Expertise Do I Need?” worksheet and begin to develop a board search document (BSD). The BSD will encapsulate the highest-level expertise priorities, and will also share essential information on the organizational culture, as well as how engaged my client wants advisors to be.

Complete clarity of expectations upfront will eliminate many problems down the road, and ensure that the company can fully leverage the wealth of talent and experience that is available through its advisors.

When you look at your current board, does the expertise around the table support a holistic perspective of what is or isn’t working in your organization? Or does it only reflect your perspective?

CEOs have the opportunity to learn so much from their employees about how to build the best company possible. Never underestimate the power of the employee experience and perspective.

Marissa Levin is CEO of Successful Culture, a consulting firm that helps CEOs build excellent cultures. She is the author of Built to SCALEwww.successfulculture.com. Contact her at marissa@successfulculture.com or on Twitter @marissalevin. Contact us at editorial@smartceo.com.

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