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Ill-defined roles between organizational boards and executives creates confusion at best, conflict at worst.

More than half of all organizations have boards of directors. Chosen well, each includes people who are supportively challenging, and who help management define strategies for organizational development.

Tension, yes. But not always constructive.

The board’s oversight role brings a fundamental tension to the board and executive director relationship. Unfortunately, that tension is not always constructive. Organizations do not always crisply define where board oversight ends and executive management begins. Most CEOs and boards would likely agree their roles are discrete and distinct. In practice, overlap occurs. Governance dictates such. In this grey area, struggles for power and authority often emerge. Communications in particular is pulled in both ways.

Who owns what?

Decisions about investor relations and communications with shareholders are clearly within the purview of the board. Communications to customers and employees are generally the executive’s domain. In all matters, the board presumes communications will come direct from the executive. But the executive doesn’t always want to—or feel it must—report to the board on the details of every decision taken (or intended to be taken).

The predictable result of this situation is that the board feels out of the loop, and not respected. The CEO gets his or her back up believing that the board wants to meddle in the company’s daily operations. Communications and investor relations, meanwhile, point fingers at one another for inconsistent messaging, or jobs not done well.

Sadly, this shade of dysfunction is not uncommon.

It’s about nuance.

No problem is unsolvable. Even issues as delicate as board/executive relations and communications can be repaired. That’s where we come in.

In our experience, the tensions borne in these challenges can be resolved through open and direct communications. Think of us as facilitators—counsellors, even. We bring everyone to the table. We ask each to express their needs and desires. We help the personalities understand the nuances of their particular roles. Then we build a communications plan and feedback loop that ensures everyone is bound together, and pulling in the same direction.

Executive communications is the top-line communications effort within an organization. It should be (or at least feel like) a joint effort between the executive and board to move the organization forward at the pace they set together. With a thoughtful, intelligent process in place, all parties can manage the people who report to them, and work together for the good of the organization—within the parameters their roles permit.

Giving shape to the shapeless.

Most organizations don’t define executive communications well. There are always gaps. But those gaps don’t have to become gulfs. They can be bridged successfully with a thoughtful, considered approach that brings the CEO and board together as one, executing the company’s mission together.

Ask us how.

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