How to Effectively Utilize a Board of Advisors

Now that I’ve convinced you to form a board of advisors, and you are already working to recruit appropriate members, it’s time to discuss how to utilize all the newly assembled brainpower to your advantage. 

Over 30 years consulting to growing contractors I have observed that the attitude of the CEO made all the difference as to whether the board of advisors was utilized effectively. Here are the attitudes I witnessed:

Prohibitive Attitudes:

  1. Considering advisors a threat rather than an aide. Believe it or not, this was the predominant attitude I witnessed among construction CEOs who had already invited experts in to advise their company.
  2. Dismissing advisor’s advice. Again, this may sound ridiculous, but the human ego is a powerful opponent to anything that threatens its dominance. Some degree of old-fashioned humility is necessary to learn to manage a company that has grown beyond the founder’s scope and scale.
  3. Rarely calling meetings. What sense could it possibly make to assemble a board of advisors and then never ask them to meet and advise? Yet, I saw this many times. One CEO spent months finding and recruiting experts he admired, then never held his first meeting. 
  4. Unable to entertain an opposing narrative. Most valuable advisers will see a situation from a perspective different than yours. The first impulse of the type A personality is to argue rather than to listen and consider. Most construction CEOs are type A to the max.
  5. Resistance to change. If an advisory board is doing its job, it may begin to recommend some new directions. This makes most CEOs very uncomfortable, and they often offer subversive resistance to potential company growth and improvements. 

Positive Attitudes:

An effective board of advisors is not there to run the company. Let’s make that clear. A board of advisors is there to contribute the specialized knowledge that no construction CEO could reasonably be expected to possess as the company grows in complexity and scale. 

  1. The advisory board should be diverse and expert in specific disciplines like financial management, long-range planning skills, communication skills, organizational behavior, marketing, and risk management. 
  2. Advisors should never engage in micromanaging or specific problem-solving. They are there to inform your strategic thinking so that mistakes can be avoided rather than corrected.
  3. The CEO must actively participate in all deliberations so that new ideas come through him rather than to him.
  4. Advisors should be “term-limited” in order to refresh the “brain bank” as you go along. You can always renew a term, but you will also be able to professionally replace board member is even better talent becomes available. Terms, of course, should neither be too short nor too long and must be staggered among the advisors so that you maintain both freshness and continuity as you go along. I prefer three of four-year renewable terms
  5. Always maintain a formal sense of professional decorum at advisory meetings. Sitting around a bar chatting about business, sports, or politics will get you nowhere. Always use a written agenda and stick to it. Someone should take minutes and report to the entire board after each meeting. Constructive, collective thinking always requires a formalized protocol to be effective. 

Managing a large, complex organization is an art form. Few are good at it single-handed. Having the humility and insight to know you need help is the start of the art. 

Please circulate this widely. It will benefit your constituents. This research is continuous and includes new information weekly as it becomes available. Thank you.

For more information on effectively utilizing a board of advisors, read more here: For a broader overview on organizational change, more articles are available by clicking here: 

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