"I can't wait for my next board meeting. I will be inspired and challenged, and we'll debate direction, insights, and new ideas," said a CEO to me recently. Do you look forward to your board meetings with the same gusto and excitement?

Considering rapid changes in technology, surprise competitors, and accelerated globalization, a board today needs to be exemplary if it is to help guide the company ahead of its competition.

The trouble is determining whether your board is succeeding. Results alone don't tell the full story; in fact, results can obscure the true issues that may be holding the company back. Many boards focus purely on results and governance but forget to focus on the these crucial elements:

1. Talent

It may sound obvious, but if you don't have the right CEO or a board with the right mix of experience and skills, then the rest will be futile. Consider where you want to expand and grow in the next five years and determine what expertise and knowledge would help accelerate that growth. One company I was working with was rapidly expanding in Europe but had no international expertise on their current board, so they quickly established a small advisory board to provide advice on the expansion, rather than wait a further year to add additional board members.

2. Leadership Pipeline

When Jim Singel, founder of Costco, stepped down, he had his successor primed and waiting in the wings. I asked him what advice he gave Craig Jelinek as he handed over the company to him, and he said he told him, "Don't screw it up." But behind the humor was a thoughtful, planned transition. Not all handovers are that successful. Building and maintaining a strong pipeline of leaders for the board and executive team is the top priority for any board. How strong is your pipeline? Is that a topic regularly discussed during your board meetings?

3. Intentional Engagement

There are many people who sit in board meetings with their eyes glazed over, just going through the routine like a tired puppet show. It is not enough to have your board members show up for meetings. How they behave as a group and individually will determine how functional your board really is. Being candid, transparent, and Thoughtfully Ruthless are the top three behaviors that will accelerate results.

4. Strategic Clarity

I have sat through too many board meetings in which the majority of time is spent on current quarter results, current customers, and operational issues. That is not the role of an exemplary board--it is the role of the CEO and executive team. An exemplary board focuses on the horizon over the next one to three years and explores strategic possibilities and partnerships; it should not function like a band of mini-CEOs focusing on immediate business. Where did you spend most of the time at your last board meeting?

5. Connections and Possibilities

One of the greatest impacts a board can have is opening doors and making connections. I have seen board members identify mentors for CEOs, make introductions that led to billion-dollar acquisitions, and pave the way for exploring technical innovations and partnerships. How well is your board making those connections for you today?

A recently appointed CEO I was working with was planning to fly to the other side of the world for a three-day board meeting. He was unclear about the meeting's purpose, wasn't sure what decisions were being made, and was certain that the rest of the board were making crucial decisions prior to his arrival. Before he boarded his flight we identified how he could create agreement for establishing the way he would work with the board, where they would add individual and group expertise, and who he would target to bring into his inner circle for advice. He returned home with a clear agreement about how the board would make decisions as well as provide feedback and expertise.

Focusing on results alone will not generate optimal results for your company; you also need exemplary processes and behaviors.

Do you want to know more about how well your board is performing? Contact me and I will send you a complimentary copy of my Exemplary Board Assessment to find out where you need to invest to unleash the power of your board to catapult your company beyond your current aspirations.

Published on: Apr 29, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.