Monday, January 14, 2013

At a Board of Directors Meeting

"It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt" - Mark Twain

I've been to Board of Directors meetings several times. These are the meetings between the top executives running corporations. Many of these top executives are also shareholders and have invested sometimes up to several million dollars. Besides members of the Board (who are elected) some shareholders have observer status and some company executives also have the privilege of being observers.

If I go, I am usually an observer but have been an elected executive member of the Board before (awful duty) and I have also been an observer or member at two other companies.

Let me tell you the difference between a meeting with these people and a meeting with regular appointed middle management at most companies; at a Board of Directors meeting, people aren't afraid to say their opinion. Nor is there any white-lie atmosphere filled with fake niceties. At a Board of Directors meeting, if you f*ck something up or if you are negligent in your duties or unaware of important information, people will ream your a*s. On the other hand, at a middle management meeting, If you criticize middle management, they usually take offense; that's why they don't climb up.

Also at a Board of Directors meeting, people make their dislike for other members well known.

The very first time I was invited to one, it kind of scared me.

I've seen 50-year-old men screaming at each other from the tops of their lungs. I've seen people throwing books and other objects at company presidents and high ranking executives from the other side of the room when plans failed or when they were incompetent. I've seen 60-year-old men crying after meetings when they got repeatedly pummeled by other members of the Board or by Observer Status members.

When people make mistakes, are negligent or are incompetent at this level, they get reamed. 

Of course they do. The people who get upset are the ones who have their own money, sometimes a half million dollars, sometimes one and one half million, sometimes four million dollars on the line. They don't f*ck around. And if you make mistakes, they will crucify you.

Sorry to use such strong language (chuckle) but these people aren't joking.

That's the difference between these sorts of people and middle management that get a salary. The salary guys get their pay no matter what. All they care about is the paycheck at the end of the month. That's why sometimes they make management decisions that fill their pocketbook as a primary purpose. Their priority is protection of their position, not success of the company.

And that's why these sorts of middle management people never graduate to upper management; they don't consider the company money as money out of their own pocket. They don't fight with the tenacity of the folks who are in upper management; of course they don't. The folks in upper management fight like they do for success because it is their own money on the line.

Middle management who put themselves in front of company well being and success would do well to step back and try to be more subjective.

Like I said, if they make the mistakes they make at upper levels, people would be throwing books at them. 

As for me, I try to follow the advice of Mark Twain.


Andrew Joseph said...

Very interesting, Mike. Just this past week, the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team was relieved of his duties four days before the hockey strike was due to be officially settled. We knew it was going to be settled - the thing just needed to be signed.
But... because our General Manager - who admittedly did not have a great past four years was bombastic, and reportedly NOT the face of the team the brand new owners wanted, he was terminated... though allowed to be a senior adviser with the team. Sucks. He built the team - a team that is decent. A team that no includes very good players at the minor league level (who are now one of the best teams in the league). The future was bright. And now... because the senior management didn't care for him, he's out. Meanwhile, the team that will compete this year IS HIS.
So why fire him now?
Ego. Ego of all involved.

Anonymous said...

The Olympus board must have been a bunch of puussy cats in that case

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