). And it works so well that Shishir used the ritual to rebuild Coda’s board meetings.
Why it’s hard to ask questions in board meetings
Most boards send a pre-read a few days before the meeting. Diligent board members, myself included, will read through the materials and jot down notes. I aim to always have 3-4 pieces of feedback for the company, and I personally note down a private score on how I feel the company is doing.
Once I get to the board meeting, a strange dance starts. There’s generally a series of presentations, then each board member takes turns asking questions. You patiently wait for the right moment and then interrupt with “I have a question...” You give a short speech on one of the pieces of feedback you brought to the meeting, but usually try to phrase it (often awkwardly) as a question. Hopefully you have the discipline to keep from asking less-pressing questions that occur to you in the moment — because the team might misinterpret this as part of your core feedback.
Besides being awkward for board members, Shishir’s view is that this standard approach is actually bad for the company as well.
You generally don’t hear from everyone. Many board conversations are dominated by one or two board members. You’ve spent so much effort to establish a balanced board. Don’t you want to hear from all of them?
It’s hard to interpret overall sentiment from questions. “I get that Reid cares about Project X, and he’s wondering about Topic Y, but does he think the company is on track or not?”
The hard topics often get avoided. Most boards act as observers and let the CEO pick the topics to discuss. But the board’s role should be to use its broader experience and its intentional distance from the company’s day-to-day activities and concerns to focus attention on topics that the CEO may not have selected.
A ritual to run better board meetings
The Coda model is simple:
Every board member privately fills in their Pulse. This pushes every board member to commit to a viewpoint. Shishir uses a simple question: “Do you feel [Company X] is on track?”, a question every board member should be able to answer. And the Reflection column allows each board member to explain the “why” behind their score.
Then every board member adds topics to the Dory and votes on suggestions from others. Often the CEO will pre-seed these with some topics on their mind, but the board can suggest others and make sure the right topics get discussed.
If there was one change I would like to make to every board I’m a part of, it would be to add a Dory / Pulse to the process. Here’s how it works:
Pulse: How do you feel about Company X?
Instructions: Ask your board to add their sentiment to the table below👇. When you’re read to discuss, expand all the sentiments and review as a board.
Clear example data
Add Your Sentiment
No results from filter
Review all sentiments (
submitted with average sentiment of
We’re making great progress!
Are we all hands on deck?
We’ve hit most of our big goals, but we need to hire faster.
There are no rows in this table
Dory: What would you like to discuss today?
Instructions: Ask your board to add their questions to the table below👇. As a group, upvote/downvote on the topics you want to discuss. Then, discuss the top-voted questions first.
Clear example data
Add a topic
NRR seems to be improving - why do we think that is?
Is our growth sales or lead constrained?
How do we incentivize people to come to a virtual event?