The board and management should be trying to achieve
the same vision and objectives so a team approach based
on trust and respect is more appropriate than a boss/
subordinate relationship. Central to this relationship
is a clear mutual understanding of roles, delegations
and boundaries which allows each party to respect
the other’s responsibilities, contributions and expectations.
The relationship depends on the open flow of relevant
and timely information in both directions.
The formalities of the nature of the relationship and
the responsibilities and expectations of each of the board
and management is often set out in the organisation’s board
or governance charter. However it is the translation
of these principles in practice as part of the culture
of the organisation and the relationship between board
and management which is vital. The chair has a primary
responsibility to foster and maintain a constructive and
effective culture in the best interests of the organisation.
The board expects management to accept that the board’s
role is to monitor and question, probe issues, seek
clarification, offer insight and share its knowledge
and experience. With management much more deeply
involved in the detail and operations of the organisation,
board members rely on management to share in a timely
manner all material information needed for decision making
to allow them to effectively fulfil their obligations
as directors. The board also expects management
to ask advice and make use of the directors’ wealth
of experience as and when appropriate.
Similarly, management has expectations of the board.
Primarily, they expect that the board will trust them to
implement strategy and deliver outcomes without undue
interference. The CEO specifically expects from the
board clearly stated performance objectives and defined
boundaries of authority. Without this direction, the CEO
is left to speculate on what the board wants him/her to
achieve. The CEO should also expect regular and honest
performance feedback. Recognition for achievement,
honesty and openness, wisdom and advice, and the ability
to use directors as a sounding board are also desirable.
For optimal performance, boards and management
must work together cohesively as a team with respect
and candour. Responsibilities and expectations
of the board include:
- making quality informed decisions based on relevant
and material information being available to the board,
especially from management;
- overseeing, managing and holding management
- satisfying itself of the competence, capability
and capacity of management;
- being accountable to shareholders/members
and regulators of the organisation’s performance.
“ Board directors must
respectfully listen to
management with an
open but constructively
challenging mind to allow
management to make
its contribution with
confidence and clarity
of viewpoint, and without
constraint or trepidation..”
Board directors have high expectations (based on legislation) and demands
of management to ensure timely and relevant information flow and reporting
to it so that there are “no surprises". As such, boards should signal the high
standards of discipline and rigour expected of management by challenging
and asking the hard questions concerning management reports in order to:
- test validity of assumptions made;
- stress test opportunity/risk analysis;
- test depth and breadth of management’s knowledge, understanding
- help foster trust and confidence in management;
- stimulate innovative and creative thought.
Board directors must courteously and respectfully listen to management with
an open but constructively challenging mind to allow management to make
its contribution with confidence and clarity of viewpoint, and without undue
interference, constraint or trepidation. In this sense, leadership by the chair
is critical in managing the relationship to meet the reasonable needs and
expectations of both board and management.
Conversely, through its displayed actions and performance, management must
assure the board of management’s competence, capability, capacity, integrity,
effectiveness and efficiency. In this sense, management has a critical role in
effective board decision making by:
- reporting relevant material information to board;
- stimulating board discussion on emerging issues;
- assisting board in analysing and considering issues;
- responding to issues raised by board.
When reporting or presenting to boards management must:
- be clear as to the purpose to the report or presentation and what the board is
being asked to do arising from it (i.e. for noting information purposes only, for
discussion and to gain the board’s wisdom and input, or for decision making
- know their audience;
- be responsive to audience’s needs;
- understand board politics and personalities;
- maintain focus on key issues;
- be patient, polite and respectful.
Management expects the board not to unduly meddle in operational matters
although being respectful of the need for the board to delve deeply from time
to time, especially if problematic trends are emerging and are not being
resolved by management.
Relationship between the chair and CEO
The relationship between the chair and CEO is critical.
Primarily it should be an engaged business relationship
where professional and personal trust and respect are
paramount in an environment of construction challenge.
This is a vital relationship as the primary source
of communication between the board and management
between board meetings is through the chair and the CEO.
The relationship needs to primarily be a “business
relationship” where professional and personal trust
and respect is paramount and where the chair can act as
a mentor/sounding board to the CEO. At the same time it
should be a relationship of frankness and candour (behind
the scenes) and unity and mutual support (in public).
It is to be expected that the chair and CEO meet from
time to time between board meetings to help set board
agendas, to debrief following board meetings and
to exchange updates and give guidance on material
issues impacting the organisation.
Relationship between individual board members
and executive management
Individual board members have no inherent authority
or executive power. Enquiries by board members
of management and by management of individual
board members should primarily be channelled
via the chair and CEO.
Where there is any direct material contract between
individual board members and executive management,
the chair and CEO should be kept informed by way
of courtesy. Where there is strength of mutual respect
and confidence that the chair’s and CEO’s authority will
not be undermined, communications between executive
management and board members may be freer. There
may also be expectations of freer communication between
the chairs of the audit and risk committees and the relevant
executives responsible for those functions, on matters
within the scope of those functions.
This document is part of a Director Tools series prepared by the Australian Institute of Company Directors. This series has been designed to provide general background information and as a
starting point for undertaking a board-related activity. It is not designed to replace legal advice or a detailed review of the subject matter. The material in this document does not constitute
legal, accounting or other professional advice. While reasonable care has been taken in its preparation, the Australian Institute of Company Directors does not make any express or implied
representations or warranties as to the completeness, currency, reliability or accuracy of the material in this document. This document should not be used or relied upon as a substitute for
professional advice or as a basis for formulating business decisions. To the extent permitted by law, the Australian Institute of Company Directors excludes all liability for any loss or damage
arising out of the use of the material in this document. Any links to third-party websites are provided for convenience only and do not represent endorsement, sponsorship or approval of those
third parties, or any products and/or services offered by third parties, or any comment on the accuracy or currency of the information included in third party websites. The opinions of those
quoted do not necessarily represent the view of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.