Board Directors: Your 6 powerful questions

Business people and cogs - Leadership Space

In late 2017 had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Traill AM for one of our Podcasts. Amongst other things, Michael talks convincingly about the role of the Board and Chair in relation to the CEO.

Like all good conversations, our exchange refined my own thinking and experience.

Here are our 6 powerful questions to reflect on if you are interested in becoming really sound in this part of your Director responsibilities.

  1. Are you hiring the best person? Your first job as a Board is to appoint the best person you can for the CEO position. A good proxy measure is to use a sound professional process to guide the Board’s decision-making.
  2. Are giving them a solid start to their first 90 days? There are two pieces of information that are helpful to remember during this time. Many leaders agree that “transitions into new roles are their most challenging times in their professional lives”, and secondly that “success or failure during the first few months is a strong predictor of overall success or failure.” As a Director consider how you are smoothing the way for your new leader. And yes, consider offering a First 90 days program.
  3. Are you positively contributing to energising them? In thriving organisations the Chair of the Board excels at supporting the motivation of the CEO. They help to energise them. As Chair ask yourself how you’re doing, and other Directors, give yourself permission take an interest in whether this relationship is working for both people. If you have a good CEO who is a flight risk because of the relationship, then that is the business of the whole Board.
  4. Do you know how they are performing? Organisations that are flourishing have Boards that have a sound feedback loop in place and strategies to help correct course regularly. Ask yourself what simple measures you might put in place to know how your people and stakeholders are feeling about the CEO. Then agree how you will support that person’s increasing success.
  5. Are you supporting continuous improvement? You know yourself that leadership is a life long learning path. Quality leaders are motivated by improvement. If your CEO is keen to be challenged and grow then a good question to ask yourself is:  As a Board, what cost-benefit return would we need to see that would have us be excited about investing in our CEO? It is amazing how many organisations invest in everyone’s professional development except that of the CEO!
  6. Are you positioned for a good ending? There are two parts to a good ending; sending a person off well and with full and genuine acknowledgement. And having a succession plan and professional process in place. These lay the ground for the cycle to begin anew on a sound footing.


Being a Director or Chair is an incredibly rewarding role. We hope these prompts provide some stimulation and fruitful reflection so that you can continue to serve the organisations you care about with confidence and satisfaction.

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