CEOS: Your Hard Choices should be Head & Heart Choices

Seeking & Using Input from your Board of Advisors

One of the reasons you established your advisory board was to help you make the best decisions on the difficult and complex issues you face.  These are the decisions where each alternative has some good points and also some not so good parts.  Neither option is clearly better than the other and each is far from perfect.

This is where an advisory board can help but you also need to understand the limitations of their advice.  If a choice is obvious, where one alternative is clearly better than the other, your advisory board input should be a no-brainer. In most cases, their advice is supportive and confirmatory of what you already know you should do.  Then you just want to make sure you’re not missing anything.

However, what happens when the alternatives are relatively equal: neither better nor worse than the other?  Then advisory board input can be conflicting and might not appear very helpful.  Everyone is viewing the issue from his or her unique experience and values.

Using Advisory Board Input

In situations like this, consider the following. Since neither option is clearly better than the other, listen to the input from each member, weigh the inputs and consider the issue from all sides. Then the decision is yours to make.  You know your company best and that makes you best qualified to weigh the different inputs.  This may require you’re your judgment and what you want to do with your company.  This actually provides an opportunity for you to implement your values, what you really believe in and what you work so hard to accomplish for your company.  Make the decision with your heart and head and then look ahead.

One Big Watch-Out

When making a difficult decision, be very aware of one important human tendency.   When alternative solutions are comparable in terms of benefits, we tend to minimize risk.  Put simply, if everything else is “equal”, go with the less risky option.  While this might sound logical and seem like the best path to take, since the benefits are not quantifiable, the risks may also not be quantifiable.  Decide with your heart and head based on what you really believe even if this means accepting a bit more risk.  It’s better to fail doing what you believe rather than fail because there was less risk.

Ultimately, the decision is yours and yours alone.  It’s up to you to listen, synthesize and evaluate the advice coming from your advisory board.

One closing piece of simple advice: make your hard choices, head AND heart choices.


About the author

Martin M. Coyne II has been a director of Akamai Technologies since 2001 and served as Lead Director from 2003-2013. He is currently chairman of the Compensation Committee and a member of the Audit Committee. He is Chairman and Founder of the CEO Learning Network, Chairman of RockTech and President and CEO of the NJ Chapter of NACD. He is author of: How To Manage Your Board While Your Board Manages You.

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