Are Your Board Chairs Past, Present or Future Thinkers?

On Thursday night, I had the honor of producing an amazing evening for the NACD Southern California chapter’s launch of their Chairmen’s Roundtable.

With me is Dr. Elise Walton, author of the working paper “The Effective Chair-CEO Relationship: Insight from the Boardroom.”  A Working Paper Published by the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance at the Yale School of Management.

Many thanks to Yale’s Millstein Center for their thought leadership on the human relationship aspect in CEO & effective chair interaction.

It was a night to remember with over 85 members of the governance community in attendance representing over 110 corporate boards.

The “All Star” panel included:

  • Sharon Allen (chairman, Deloitte, LLP)
  • Dr. Jane Shaw (non-executive Chair, Intel)
  • Bob Wayman (director Carefusion, Affymetrix, formerly of Sybase, Con-Way and Hewlett Packard)
  • Gary Wilson (Chairman Manhattan Pacific Partners, director:  CBRE, Yahoo!, formerly Disney and Northwest)

Here is M. Christian Mitchell, our NACD Southern California chapter President welcoming our guests and panelists.

I’ll include some more pictures at the end of the post, but wanted to fill you in on the conversation we had and heard:


Sharon Allen, Chairman, Deloitte LLP shared her first-hand experience in how her board planned for her succession.  We had the opportunity to toast her in leaving her chairmanship, as this was her last official event before retirement.

A show of hands from the audience indicated that the discussion on board chair succession is one many boards have in their future.

My take-away from the discussion is that board chairs can add to this by zooming out on the process.  Not just seeing it as chair succession, but a broader board “life cycle” thinking about directors, their roles and keeping the board refreshed.

I’m going to be doing research on this board “life cycle” process for Risk for Good clients, so please email or leave a comment on the blog with your ideas/thoughts/perspective on optimizing board/chair succession planning.  This is an example of where chairs can lead now and next thinking.

Dr. Jane Shaw, Chairman, Intel, talked about the change in perspective she gained when she moved from the Director to Lead Director to Chairman role.  She was delightful in sharing with us that she didn’t realize how much about the company she did not know.  I loved that she would be transparent enough to share this with all of us.

Our table had a wonderful peer-to-peer experience during dinner.  I so appreciate the work in leading the discussion — many thanks to all the table hosts.  My table included Dr. Shaw, and the discussion was focused on picking and defending our top three picks from the Relationship Basics Assessment:

  1. Frequent and Open Communications
  2. Effective Processes
  3. Defined But Adaptable Roles

I’ll be checking back in with Elise, our table hosts and our NACD Southern California board on their take-aways from the event.  What I left with is the knowledge that leading the board room (board chair, lead director and non-executive director) is a mission critical role.  It is called many things, but the role is unique in its depth and breadth.

If you’re fortunate enough to be asked to lead the boardroom, think seriously about the now and next thinking.  As board leaders, CEOs need all the wisdom available to execute on a business strategy in a rapidly changing, globally-connected world.