Extract from Chapter 1 of Realpolitik “Eight Essential Aspects Of Small Company Boards”
Essence 7 – Cauldrons Of Emotion: Power! Betrayal! Plotting! Deceit!
“On one Board a lifelong friend stabbed me in the back.”
Boards are comprised of people not robots. This needs emphasising as Board-inexperienced folk can have far too much of a “bloodless” legal/regulatory concept of the Board.
If the reality – that one side of the Board coin is “legals” and the other “realpolitik” – was accurately reflected then half the books and courses on the market would be about “emotions” not “logic”. Which they manifestly are not.
Given that the Board is seemingly “just a meeting” emotions can run very high. One gentle soul said to me:
“I am not in the slightest bit violent but the nearest I have ever come to punching someone in the face was at a Board meeting.”
I subsequently related that tale to another interviewee (who hadn’t expressed that view) who said:
“I know exactly what he means.”
Unsurprisingly you can get pretty much every kind of behaviour imaginable in circumstances relating to money, power and control, passion and politics.
It is, to put it mildly, no easy task to raise a SmallCo from a twinkle in the eye to something that has business volumes measured in billions. It is equally no easy task to, say, have a divorce from your creation imposed upon you by your Board.
It is no fun having someone ruin your vision that you have lost sleep over for years.
Or to have lifelong friends turn against you.
Many of you will have experienced the emotive aspect of Boards and the rest of you can imagine.
The most important takeaway for those of you who haven’t experienced this directly is that Board meetings in growing companies are not some boring, dry, calculation of reason but, are rather, on a bad day, cauldrons of emotion and conflict. A kind of UFC where might rules. In the fast-changing world of Tech or any 21stC SmallCo there is no time for sleep, no weeks ticking by without some minor crisis of some sort, nor long periods without yet another sine qua non fundraising round.
Intra-personal frictions arise in all groups. On the Board this is compounded by the fact that around the table there are folks playing very different roles with very different, and in the long run potentially incompatible, aims and desires.