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Leading from the boardroom: 5 ways a board can support its CEO.

By: Robert Bennin
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“A decisive Board is cogitative, proactive, and supportive.”
― Pearl Zhu, Digitizing Boardroom: The Multifaceted Aspects of Digital Ready Boards

Leading an organisation through a period of rapid change is a daunting challenge. Adding the pressures of leading through this unprecedented covid19 crisis makes every CEO's job very lonely, extremely difficult and prone to error.  Leaders at the frontlines preserving lives and livelihoods will appreciate a good hand from the boardroom.

Board of directors can play a significant role in setting up CEOs for success. Here are five actions boards can take to support CEOs to survive and thrive in this difficult time. CEOs can also apply them when dealing with their direct reports.

1. Express Support:
Do not play the “you are not as smart as me” card and make comments showing how you would have reacted to this crisis in a better way if you were the CEO. Your CEO is in charge, support him to carry the team and business through this difficult time. This is also the time to demonstrate trust, attend meetings and follow through on all your commitments.
2. Encourage Self-Care:
Make it acceptable to talk about the stress and personal struggles your CEO is going through (and to ask for support) at board meetings without having a pity party. As the leader of the business, you will need him to be physically energized and mentally strong. You can make a personal call to find out how your CEO is coping and encourage him or her.
3. Embrace Learning:
No one has answers. Every organization has to learn its way very quickly through this crisis. Lead the organization to become agile at learning. Institute regular learning sessions. Encourage the CEO to hire an executive coach, and learn the skills required to lead in the future. CEOs should lead learning by hosting learning sessions with the teams within the organisation.
4. Embed Change-Orientation:
The game has changed. Your cheese may have been moved. Everyone in the organization has to look to the future starting with the CEO. Board meetings and presentations should consider the future of the business in a post-covid world. Don’t hang on to the past. Shift! Support your CEO to initiate and implement a change plan focused on the new future of the business.
5. Eliminate Conflict:
Finally, this is the time the CEO needs a “quiet” board devoid of all the relationship conflicts that sometimes become the routine of many boards. The challenge at hand deserves every CEO’s full attention. One way of supporting the CEO is to keep peace and harmony at the top. Every member of the board should be involved in the lone fight of preserving lives and the business.

The writer is a Leadership Development Facilitator, Marshall Goldsmith Certified Executive Coach, and a Strategy Consultant. He is the founder of TEMPLE Advisory, (www.thelearningtemple.com) and a Leadership Subject Matter Expert at the African Leadership University, Rwanda.
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