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Reid’s Rituals of Great Board Meetings: the 8 strategic tools used by top companies

Reid’s Rituals of Great Board Meetings: The 8 strategic tools used by top companies

What I've learned from over 1,000 board meetings at the best boards in the world, including Microsoft, AirBnB, LinkedIn, PayPal, Coda, Zynga, Convoy, Aurora, and more.

Over the course of my career, I’ve had deep and wide-ranging experience serving on boards. I’ve been in the executive seat on the boards of my own startups, LinkedIn and SocialNet. In the early days of PayPal, I took the uncommon step of switching from the board to an executive role at the company. I’ve served on the boards of private companies (Coda, Neeva, Convoy, etc.), served on the boards of companies as they went public (LinkedIn, Zynga, and in process Aurora), and joined boards as part a SPAC process (Joby). And I’ve even joined the board of a perennial Fortune 20 company well into its existence (Microsoft).

Across the dozens of boards I’ve served on over the last 20-plus years, I have now attended
over a thousand board meetings

Boards are a different kind of team

One constant in my experience is that Boards of Directors are unusual organizations. At their most effective, they function as highly-aligned and fast-moving teams. And yet they’re contextually different from most teams that form inside companies.

Typical internal employee team
You’re all immersed in the same company culture.
You probably spend a lot of time together, often in informal and even extracurricular settings.
You possess the familiarity, knowledge, and ideally, trust, that grows out of routine engagement over time.
You should be working under the direction of clear executive leadership, from the CEO and on down.
You should have some clear goals and measures of those goals, i.e. you can understand fairly clearly if you are doing your job well.

A board of directors
Meets just four times a year typically, although there’s reasons why early stage companies can be up to 10 times per year.
Its members spend their days in distinct environments — and are sometimes even competitive with each other.
The board of directors manages itself by a group process, even if some board members might have some specific powers in specific companies. A chair of a board generally is not the “CEO” of a board, except sometimes by moral authority or general agreement.
The board of directors has the central responsibility of hiring, firing, and compensating the company’s CEO. The board of directors also participates in major financial decisions that have a macro effect on the entire company, such as purchasing other companies or major assets. As such, the question and measurement of whether a board is doing a good job can be murky.
All of these factors can result in discussions that are less forthright than desired, or even discussions that can feel non-inclusive and superficial.

Outside the context of the board, board members are often CEOs or other kinds of leaders, used to setting agendas and having the final say. But on the board, they must work together as a team. With only a limited amount of time to make decisions that will likely have major impact on a company’s short-term and long-term directions, strategies, and success, board members must possess a highly-aligned sense of purpose and a common understanding of the rules of engagement.

So how do you help them achieve this necessary alignment of goals and processes outside the usual contexts that facilitate effective team-building and teamwork within an organization?

Best practices from the best boards

On my podcast, Masters of Scale, I had a
with Coda CEO Shishir Mehrotra about the rituals that great companies use to build enduring world-class businesses.

In Shishir’s conception, rituals are the key processes that both determine how companies communicate and simultaneously help embody its values and culture. They’re the secret sauce that give employees a common frame of reference and shared identity. As I’ve watched Shishir develop a series around
, I realized their importance in board meetings. Explicitly incorporating shared processes is a powerful way to help board members quickly achieve the collective sense of purpose and corporate fluency that are the hallmarks of great workplace teams.

There are a number of essential practices for high-functioning boards. These include recruiting the right board members, understanding the OKRs for board members and the board itself, building the right partnerships with the CEO and company, knowing the right ways to add value and to avoid destroying value. Detailing all of these is a book in itself. However, from my general experience and from watching Shishir deploy his rituals in the Coda board meetings, I realized you can distill some of these rituals into helpful tools.

With that in mind, I’ve created this list of eight rituals drawn from the playbooks of Airbnb, LinkedIn, Aurora, Coda, and others that can help board members operate at peak capacity.

- Inspired by
. Capture non-biased feedback and keep board meetings focused.
- Inspired by
. Craft mind-blowing customer experiences.
- Inspired by
. Keep your board aligned when raising funds.
- Inspired by
. Provide input on priorities without breaking the company.
- Inspired by
. Leverage your superpower to help the company navigate uncertainty.
- Inspired by
. Hire executives with cofounder mindsets.
- Inspired by
. Use 1:1 meetings to build deep relationships with board members.
- Inspired by
. Leverage your board’s influence to sell and hire.

Each of these rituals helps your board unlock growth in different ways. Want to stay on track and get unbiased feedback during board meetings? Use a
. Need help closing a candidate or big account? Ask your board for
. Hoping to get your board’s input on planning? Play the

You don’t have to wait until your company is as large as Microsoft or as ubiquitous as Airbnb to create a world-class board of directors. Start today by copying this doc then go implement your own board rituals.

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