>The Managing UP Kit part 7 – You and the chair


The CEO’s relationship with the chair is a critical one for the success of the organisation – each of you is at the pinnacle of the respective arms of management and governance. As with any relationship, it usually works best when the two people involved are clear about the nature and boundaries of their place in the relationship, and there are clear and agreed lines of communication.

In other words, you need to be prepared to talk to each other about how you will talk to each other, and make the terms of your relationship as explicit as possible. Here are some of the areas where is it helpful to have agreement:

  • You need to be clear about each person’s role as the public face of the organisation. Who will be the primary media representative; from whom will comment be sought? Which areas are clearly the territory of the chair, and which are the CEO’s?
  • You need to understand when, and in what circumstances, you can disagree with each other in the board room in front of the other directors, and how the difference of opinion can be constructively dealt with.
  • You need to know the boundaries of the open access you have to each other – is it 24/7, no weekends, not after 8.00 pm?
  • You need a working ability to give each other constructive feedback, and a willingness to receive it.
  • You should be clear about the nature of the chair’s role as your mentor, and how that can work best for both of you.


What chairmen need most, in my experience is “No surprises” – if there is bad news the chair should not find out about it first in a board meeting and without prior mention. The chair has credibility to maintain with the other directors, and will undoubtedly want to assess how the most constructive result can be obtained from the adverse situation.

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