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Difficult Conversations Happening in the Boardroom

Introduction by Nora Jacobs, Hennes Communications

Over the years, we’ve helped a number of organizations announce management transitions involving their CEO – a change that, even when well-planned – requires carefully crafted communications in order to minimize distractions, concerns and disengagement among stakeholders.  Most often, we work closely with the board chair and board leadership to plan how this critically important news will be shared.  That work has given us a keen appreciation for the ongoing planning good boards do to not only anticipate changes at the top, but the other issues that can affect the organizations they govern.

This article, by search firm CEO Janice Ellig, recounts an interview she had with Maggie Wilderotter, who has served as a director for more than 50 public and private companies, and who is a former executive for Hewlett-Packard Enterprises, Xerox and The Procter & Gamble Company. Ellig and Wilderotter focus particularly on the ways the role of the board has changed post-COVID. That includes the strategies boards should have in place for CEO retention and succession, the vital importance of risk identification and risk management, ways to assess the talent, turnover and “temperature” of a company, and the challenge of activist shareholders and cause-related outside organizations.

Although this piece was written from the perspective of for-profit governance, the lessons and recommendations it provides apply equally to the non-profit world, where good governance and solid leadership are just as important, if not more so.


The Endemic Era: 6 Difficult Conversations Happening in the Boardroom

By Janice Ellig, for Directors & Boards

Crisis management and the ability to be strategically agile are top priorities for boards.

Over the past 30 months, leaders in the boardroom have had to adapt repeatedly to unprecedented uncertainty. Directors have come to recognize that we will continue to have constant pivots to what the new normal is – that is the reality. The role of a board director has never been more demanding, and decision-making requires courage and the ability to pivot fast. The seat that each director holds is a critical piece of real estate supporting good corporate governance and ensuring the viability of the company they serve. The discussions in boardrooms require directors to have the experience, skills and strategic thinking to ensure companies continue to grow and fulfill their purpose to shareholders and stakeholders, including employees, customers and communities.

The same has been true for the leader of the company: the CEO. It has been a time when directors have had to ask deep, probing questions of their CEOs to ensure the company would not just survive but thrive, sometimes resulting in CEO replacement. It has been a time when companies are under greater external scrutiny and directors are being held accountable for decisive and discerning corporate governance.

As we brace for more new realities, boards know there will always be looming crises of varying magnitudes, situations that require even more frequent, substantive and inquisitive conversations. Those conversations will present conflicting opinions, robust debates and difficult questions for management. The results may be a catalyst for more turnover in the boardroom and the C-suite, some planned and some unplanned, to ensure a company’s viability with the right leadership at the helm. The following recent interview with Maggie Wilderotter, a highly experienced board director, highlights some of those difficult conversations taking place in the boardroom.

For the rest, click here.


For assistance communicating to your stakeholders in situations like those described in this article, Hennes Communications has more than 30 years of experience in this regard.  We can be reached at 216-321-7774 or

Photo by Christina Morillo:

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