Four good recommendations about how to get along well with the CEO and Board

At the SuperConference yesterday, Carrie Hightman, the general counsel of NiSource, offered her thoughts on a panel about relations with the CEO, CFO and the Board of Directors. She stressed how important it is to have a “good working relationship” with each of them and offered four particular recommendations.

  1. Be very solicitous about the time of Directors. Get them their Board materials on time, for example, which may seem trivial but matters a great deal to some of them. The care and feeding of directors, done smoothly and consistently, will help you get along with them well.

  2. Understand your role during Board meetings: mostly as a passive participant. Judiciously choose when to comment and hone your skills as a facilitator who can take the temperature of the room, sense body language, and cut short rambling presentations that no longer interest the Directors.

  3. Crisply give your own statements about legal issues and fight the urge to add a comment or more about everything. “You are best appreciated if your interventions are surgical – few but well chosen words.” Remember, every time you take a position you will clash with someone. Finally, “don’t feel obliged to fill pregnant pauses.”

  4. Be concise and pragmatic. Give the answer, not the history and development, with footnotes of the common law. Once your point is made, stop. She closed the final point with a strong urging to keep the big picture in mind at all times, not the relatively small portion that legal input consists of.

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