"Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people." - Steve Jobs
The board is the guardian of your company's future, and its job is to ensure that the company is well-positioned for long-term success. Understanding your position on and to the executive board and having the rights strategies and skills to navigate it are crucial.
In this chapter, you'll explore the critical significance of board dynamics and gain invaluable insights into effectively communicating your vision, building trust with non-technical decision-makers, and navigating the complexities of strategic decision-making.
Executive leadership is to provide guidance and support to the rest of the organization. They must communicate the company's goals and objectives and ensure everyone is working towards the same vision. They are also responsible for creating a culture of innovation and collaboration where employees feel empowered to contribute ideas and take ownership of their work.
The executive leadership team is responsible for setting the company's strategic direction, making critical decisions, and ensuring it is on track to achieve its goals. This team is made up of individuals who have a deep understanding of the industry, the market, and the company's vision and mission.
Influential executive leaders in fast-growing online companies possess unique qualities that enable them to navigate the complex and rapidly evolving business landscape. One of the most essential qualities is thinking strategically and making decisions quickly. In an online, fast-growing company, opportunities and threats can arise immediately, and influential executive leaders must be able to assess the situation and take decisive action.
The board members are usually major investors or shareholders who focus on the longer-term goals and ensure that the company is heading in the right direction. They may not be technically literate, but they have deep domain knowledge and experience that can be useful for guidance.
Assess the technical expertise of the board members from diverse backgrounds. Technology concepts and terminology can be complex and technical, making it difficult for non-technical individuals to grasp the intricacies of your enthusiastic vision and proposals. This knowledge gap can lead to misunderstandings and skepticism, making it harder to effectively communicate your plans' value and impact.
Recognize that your fellow board members often prioritize financial considerations and return on investment. They may focus more on immediate financial gains than long-term technological investments. Your strategic plans may involve significant upfront costs for research and development, infrastructure upgrades, or talent acquisition, which might yield little financial returns. Convincing your board members of these investments' long-term benefits and potential competitive advantages can take time and effort.
To make your presentation more productive and prevent any rookie mistakes, it's crucial to understand the personalities of each board member. Please speak with your fellow executives to gain insight into their characters, areas of fondness, and who has the absolute authority to make decisions. This knowledge will help you tailor your presentation to their preferences and maximize your time with them.
Within the executive leadership team, effective communication is essential for making strategic decisions and ensuring everyone is aligned with the company's goals and vision. It also helps to build trust and strengthen relationships between team members. When communicating with other departments in the company, you must be able to articulate your expectations and provide guidance when necessary.
Board meetings are an incredible opportunity to showcase your vision, leadership, and expertise to critical decision-makers who directly impact your company's strategic direction. It's crucial to be well-prepared and confident in your presentation.
Presenting to the board can be an intimidating experience, but it's a chance for you to demonstrate your value and influence the company's direction. The decisions made in this meeting can have a lasting impact on the company, so it's essential to get it right.
As you prepare for your presentation, remember the company's strategic direction, major initiatives, and financial well-being. Being concise, informative, and engaging in your production is essential. Make it count.
By proactively identifying and providing solutions to potential challenges, you can demonstrate preparedness and enhance your credibility during board meetings. Here is some general guidance to help you in your board participation as CTO.
Know the agenda of the meeting and understand the overall message your CEO is trying to convey. Refrain from disagreeing with or correcting your fellow executive team members if this is not your area. Please make a note of it and follow up afterward. There may be context you are missing. Keep your presentation on point and focused. Find ways to explain complicated initiatives in a way your listeners can relate.
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." - Richard Branson
Don't be intimidated into making any rash decisions. Take their question and commit to following up with an answer within a few days. If reporting bad news, never blame, disparage, or name anyone. Be prepared to go into detail and field questions that may come out of left field and not feel on point. You may not be aware of what else has been discussed.
Do not take your laptop or use it sparingly if you have to give a demo, closing the lid as soon as you are done. Hiding behind a computer, pretending to take notes, looks like you are disengaged. Take notes the good old-fashioned way, with a pen and paper, to show you are engaged.
If you are not involved in the board meeting, leave as soon as you finish and questions have been fielded. Ask the CEO (or chairperson) if it is okay to go; don't hang around and be told to leave. Be on your guard in the informal meetings. These people are adept at making you open up and tell them something you probably shouldn't.
Gather and present fact-based and data-driven evidence to sustain your ideas, arguments, and proposals. This could include market research, competitor analysis, and case studies highlighting successful implementations of similar strategies. By presenting tangible evidence, you can strengthen your arguments and gain confidence in front of the board members.
In presenting your proposals to the Board, consider the following general guidance:
Value: The best way to sell a promising technology initiative is by highlighting its measurable value and aligning that value with specific business needs. People are generally resistant to change. The core message should always revolve around value.
Productivity: Emphasize the numerous benefits and significant impact the technology will have on day-to-day tasks, leading to improved efficiency and overall performance. Highlights how it can streamline processes and save time for employees, allowing them to focus on more critical studies.
Storytelling: Illustrate the compelling journey of the technology's impact and user adoption, showcasing real-life examples and success stories. This creates a powerful narrative that instills confidence and fosters trust in the value and potential of the technology.
Outcome: Engage in outcome-based conversations with key management colleagues to effectively communicate the message and generate quick and vital support. By aligning the technology with specific desired outcomes and demonstrating its potential to drive positive results, you can capture the attention of executives and gain their enthusiastic endorsement.
Rejection: If the proposal is rejected, find someone within the organization who understands the potential benefits and is willing to advocate for the idea. Also, consider finding a trusted external stakeholder, such as a customer, vendor, or industry colleague, who will support the proposal.
Trust is crucial in dealing with executive board members, particularly when they may (and often do) need more technical knowledge to fully evaluate what you are selling them. Beware that you serve as the technological evangelist and authority within the company. Establishing trustworthiness is essential in this role, as it creates a foundation of credibility and reliability.
Trust allows you to bridge the knowledge gap between technical experts and non-technical decision-makers. You can build confidence and foster trust with the CEO and other board members by consistently demonstrating honesty, transparency, and integrity.
This trust empowers you to communicate their vision, strategic plans, and the potential impact of technology-related initiatives, even if the audience needs more technical expertise. When you are perceived as trustworthy, their recommendations and insights are more likely to be taken seriously and considered with the necessary gravity.
Trust allows you to gain the necessary support, resources, and autonomy to implement technological strategies effectively. When the CEO and other board members trust you, they are more likely to embrace innovation, provide the required financial backing, and champion the CTO's initiatives within the organization.
By building trust through honesty, transparency, and integrity, you can bridge the knowledge gap, effectively communicate their plans, and gain support for technology-related initiatives. Trust establishes a solid foundation for collaboration, enabling the CTO to make informed decisions and drive technological innovation that aligns with the company's strategic objectives.
"It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare." - Sundar Pichai
As a CTO, you are critical to shaping your organization's future. Building trust with the executive leadership team and the board of directors is crucial for gaining support and resources to implement technological strategies effectively. You can bridge the knowledge gap and gain their trust by effectively communicating your plans and ideas to non-technical decision-makers.
To sell promising initiatives, highlight their measurable value and align that value with specific business needs. Present fact-based and data-driven evidence to strengthen your arguments and gain confidence in front of the board members. Tailor your message to capture executives' attention quickly and be outcome-driven in conversations with crucial management colleagues.
Establishing a culture of innovation and collaboration is essential for creating a productive work environment. Foster trusts and believes in the value of technology by showcasing the various stages of impact and user adoption. Be well-prepared and confident in your board presentations to demonstrate your vision, leadership, and expertise.
The decisions made in board meetings can have a lasting impact on the company. Embrace the opportunity to drive innovation and influence the direction of your organization. By building trust, presenting tangible evidence, and showcasing your strategic thinking, you can lead your company towards success and growth.
As a CTO ask yourself the following:
How can you effectively bridge the knowledge gap between technical expertise and non-technical decision-makers?
What strategies can you implement to gain the necessary support and resources from the executive leadership team and the board of directors?
How will you ensure your technological initiatives align with specific business needs and deliver measurable value to the organization?
Your takeaways from this chapter:
The importance of building trust and credibility with the executive leadership team and the board of directors.
Embrace the opportunity to drive innovation and influence the direction of your organization.
Effectively bridge the knowledge gap between technical expertise and non-technical decision-makers.
Gain the necessary support and resources from the executive leadership team and the board of directors.
Ensure that your technological initiatives align with specific business needs and deliver measurable value to the organization.
Present fact-based and data-driven evidence to strengthen your arguments and gain confidence in front of the board members.
Tailor your message to capture executives' attention quickly and be outcome-driven in your conversations with crucial management colleagues.
Establish a culture of innovation and collaboration by showcasing the various stages of impact and user adoption.
Be well-prepared and confident in your board presentations to demonstrate your vision, leadership, and expertise.
Be courageous in pursuing technological advancements and inspire others to embrace change.