I Was A Lousy Board Member Yesterday

I have been to thousands of board meetings. Maybe tens of thousands. I’ve done them in person, on the phone, and on video conference. Most of the time I think I’m additive to the mix. Yesterday I had a board meeting (where I was remote on video) where on reflection I was a lousy participant and miserable contributor to the meeting.

I had a really nice dinner with a founder of a company that was recently acquired by a company I’m on the board of. I vented a little about the board meeting to him at the beginning of dinner and then he asked me questions about how I think a great board meeting should work. As I was talking and explaining, I realized the board meeting wasn’t crummy. Instead, I was lousy. So when I got home, I sent the following note to the CEO and the largest VC investor in on the board (who I view as the lead director for this company.)


Dear CEO, Lead Director:

Post dinner, I thought I’d drop you another note. Please feel free to share with the entire management team if you’d like.

I thought I was a shitty board member today.

1. I was late. My brother had surgery today so I had an excuse, but that set a crummy tone.

2. I was painfully bored by the first 90 minutes. I let myself get frustrated as you read us the board package. I know some board members like this and while I don’t, that’s my problem, not yours. You get to run the board meeting however you want.

3. I was annoyed with my lack of clarity on what you were looking for.

4. I let myself get distracted. Rather than pay attention, I drifted to email which I hadn’t been on all day. The mediocre audio wasn’t helpful here, but again that was my problem. I could have paid attention.

5. I then got very frustrated with what I thought was a “let’s go raise a bunch of money thread” which I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, but I presumed that there was some positioning going on. I shouldn’t have. But I let that + my general annoyance derail me.

I’m sorry. I know I wasn’t helpful today.

So you are clear about where I’m at.

– I’m psyched about the progress you are making.
– I’m totally comfortable with you running hot at an $xxx net burn rate for the balance of the year. You’ve got plenty of money.
– When I’m bored in, or annoyed with, a board meeting, that’s my problem in the moment to deal with, not yours. You’ve got 14 people in the room / on the phone and that’s more than any human should have to try to process.
– You and <your COO> have my full, unambiguous support.


We all have off days – when you have one – own it.

  • John Best

    That you took the time to be introspective, even to apologise says a lot. That’s a lucky team.

  • Yep, I think you owned it! well done! It takes a lot of courage to take responsibility for your actions. Respect

  • yup. own it. a life lesson that starts early. musta had great parents!

  • jfjoyner3

    Everyone can admire extreme responsibility for one’s own interaction (in this or any role) with others. I’m predicting (guessing) there will be 2 general reactions. One: “I kinda thought Brad was not himself today and now I know why. I need to say thanks for clearing it up when I next see him.” Two: “That dude was a horse’s ass … it figures. He’s always doing …” Your CEO should get rid of that second group! Thanks for sharing this very open post, exposing your humanness.

  • You borrowes a little from basesball. The best of the best
    always applogize first to their team. Did you cc the board ? How thoughtful was the reply?

    • I just sent it to the CEO and lead director. It was an apology mostly to the CEO, not to the board, but I left it in his hands if he wanted to forward to the rest of the leadership team (who was in the room). Of course, since I posted it here, the board can easily see it if they want.

      The response from the CEO and the lead director (separately) was super thoughtful.

  • Elizabeth Kraus

    It’s funny that this is the first thing that I read this morning. I’ve been struggling with my unhealthy need for perfection lately and I woke up thinking about how this strive for perfection has manifested itself with my writing. I only write a blog post about once a month because I want to make sure it is absolutely perfect and that takes a ton of time. I hit perfection, but perfection doesn’t always move the ball forward. And then I thought about you….I was thinking that you are so good about posting something everyday and yes, some of your posts are less than stellar :), but the overwhelming majority of them are great. People follow you because the net result is greatness and they forgive you for the crap because they want to be a part of the great. And thinking of that was great inspiration for me to keep moving forward. This is all to say….that I’m sorry you’ve had a couple of crappy days, but I hope it helps you to know that your imperfection helps us all move forward. Thanks for sharing.

    • Glad it helps. I read all of your posts – I wish there were more because I learn something from almost all of them. So – to perfection – we say “the hell with you…”

      • Elizabeth Kraus

        Thanks and yes… To hell with perfection

  • I love seeing honesty in action, and where actions and words are so well aligned. Sometimes you set a difficult standard Brad…

    • Jana

      Yes, the difficult standard is being so quick to own it. Me, it could takes weeks for my courage and conflict of soul to fess up!

  • Rick

    What are you gonna’ do to ensure it doesn’t happen again?

  • Thomas Fox

    Hey Brad, posts like this inspire all of us to do better – like you! Thanks buddy!

  • It’s always hard for me to focus in the poor-audio-quality-remote situation. I think it’s great and should be mentioned more often and dealt with. As you’ve pointed out, it makes adding value (for the remotee) increasingly difficult. Enjoyed this post, Brad.

  • Eddie Wharton

    So honest, self reflective and humble. Truly something to aspire to.

    PS I posted this to USV.com: https://www.usv.com/?msg=success&slug=i-was-a-lousy-board-member-yesterday

  • Philip Smith

    I agree . . . too humble . . . I would expect no less.
    On point number 2, I couldn’t agree more. As a board observer (not director) for most of the portfolio, I was always frustrated by what I considered a waste of time. I can read a package . . . review the most important points (concise and to the point) and open the meeting for questions. No questions . . . lets move on. Now we know where we are lets discuss how we can get to where we all want to be.

  • Rick

    Off-topic engagement question:
    I’m evaluating ideas and am wondering if it’s better to induce user engagement for 1-10, 11-30, or 30-60 minutes? These ideas are for web products in the ad and social space.

  • Bad VC. No biscuit.

  • Garth Soshahi

    Brad you’re awesome, honesty above pride; in a word, Great! Thank you.

  • Ashok Kamal

    The realest.

  • JLM

    Send the guy a Red Lobster gift certificate.


  • Noah Geisel

    Thanks for sharing this, Brad. I think these ideas extend beyond the board room. As an educator, I’m often in (or running) meetings that are necessary but not meeting all of the attendees’ needs. This is a healthy reminder that our own needs aren’t always the objective of the meeting. Further, professionally communicating meeting dissatisfaction with leadership is more productive than checking out or acting negatively, and may provide leaders with valuable information to improve in the future. Great stuff.

  • Joe

    join my board please!!

  • FasinFun

    I take something completely different from the apology that is very powerful: We all own our own engagement/boredom and are responsible for how we act when our ideal expectations regarding the meeting/presentation/etc. are not met. I am amazed how often someone who has not been paying attention in a meeting will pipe in with the same thing someone else just said, and that this seems to be OK. It’s not.

  • What’s the composition of the 14 people? That seems an incredibly large number of people to have in a Board meeting.