A Good Board Member

Yesterday Fred Wilson wrote a post on a topic that I’ve been following closely. It’s about how to be a good board member. He linked it to another blogger, Mark Suster (who is also a VC, managing partner at Upfront Ventures) who wrote a list of what needs to be done before, during and after board meeting. You can read it here. It’s very useful.

I’ve mentioned a few times in my blog that my end goal is to be a good sounding board member of a company that requires my influence in the subject matter that I deeply care about. As what Fred Wilson said, his only rule of being a good board member is:


“If you care, really care, deeply care, like the way a parent cares for a child, you will be a good board member”.

At this point in time, I care about companies prioritising innovation and technology-related initiatives, especially the incumbents. I hear a lot of the talk, but most companies take a slow stance in walking the talk, especially at the management level and board. That’s what I saw when I worked on data analytics project with a few companies last year. Because it is something that you can’t see the fruit immediately, you have to grapple on the typical issues such as cost, budget, other priorities etc.

Anyway, two of the rules that Mark Suster highlighted are consistent with what I’ve read about being a good board member so far. The ineffective ones or rather those that couldn’t make the other board members agree to them or influence them are those that do not practice the rules. They are as follows:

  1. Speak with the CEO before the board meeting
  2. Have calls or emails with other board members before the board meeting

I could relate to this because it’s not just applicable for board meetings. but also the day-to-day job in the corporate world. When you want to make changes, you have to engage and syndicate with the relevant people first. Get their buy in so that you can have a few people supporting you in a larger meeting/discussion. When I was in MIT, the professor taught us to find the ‘nancy’, i.e. the one who’s mostly connected to the people that you need their support. I’ve seen a few people that just don’t believe in this. They think it’s a waste of time. I hope these people realize one day how important to engage.

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