The Board of Directors is central to the organization. The character and integrity of the leadership of any organization sets the tone for the entire organization. The culture reflects the leader. The board is key to effective organizational sustainability. Let’s examine building and strengthening relationship sustainability of boards.
Clarify Roles and Expectations
Many organizations have no definition of the role and responsibility of the board and its members. To create effective, high functioning teams (the board is the top team), onboard new people thus:
1. Recruit for a specific competency and verify that particular skill;
2. Define a specific role and responsibility;
3. Check for alignment with core values and guiding principles;
4. Develop a statement of expectations.
When our roles and expectations are not clear, what we think we should be doing might not be a part of the plan, setting up conflict.
Plan for Dealing with Conflict and Criticism
Where there are humans, there will be conflict and disagreement. It’s a sign of energy in the culture. But conflict and disagreement can be creative tools! Conflict can exist between leaders, and between leaders and the membership. Leaders must create a strong enough relationship so that outside pressures do not divide them.
Conflict between board members must be dealt with directly, openly, and promptly. Disagreements must remain between them and not spoken of outside the meeting room. Speaking outside the relationship is breaking a confidence and is not acceptable. Keeping it within the context of the discussion and not taking it personally, if that isn’t intended, is essential. Conflict must not fester and must be resolved as soon as possible. We must be unified to function at our highest level.
Determine a Way to Achieve Consensus
When decisions do not come easily, a possible paradigm is to work toward consensus. The root of consensus is consent. Each person gives consent to a decision that is not necessarily a personal first choice, but is the best choice for the common good. Reaching consensus involves listening, discussing, considering other points of view, responding, safely debating, forming a concept, revising the concept, and adopting the final concept.
Debate may be a creative activity for one person and a challenge to authority for another person. It should be determined how to explore options and discuss the facts. Board members should come to meetings well prepared, but able to make adjustments in the plan as needed.
Reaching decisions effectively is determined by the strength of the trust between the parties, as well as the level of respect earned by working together. Relationship strength is shown by how the parties work together and by how they handle themselves when things do not go as planned. Leadership professionals must always act professionally.
Prepare for Difficulties
Relationships are defined when the going gets tough. For example, board members should plan how to respond when antagonists in the organization try to triangle their relationships. Relationship integrity is preserved by not taking sides and observing the triangles, the basic building block of human relationships (neither bad nor good) created by three people in a relationship. Observing triangles helps leaders on boards stay calm and focused.
The well-prepared team is ready to work through situations when there is criticism. It requires being strong and not taking general comments personally; not getting pulled into irrelevant conflict; listening, observing, and listening more. The words may not give the entire message.
At this point, a fragile relationship can turn to conflict in an effort to preserve position or self-esteem. The relationship is strengthened not by what happens, but by how it is handled. Members must stay in touch; be open and honest; admit failure, if needed; seek to understand issues first, and then seek options. Solutions come last.
Celebrate Life and Success!
Success should be celebrated. Celebration doesn’t have to be shallow, phony, or funky. A genuine celebration of our abundance attracts more of the same. Celebrate!
Hugh Ballou, SynerVision Leadership Foundation’s Founder and President, is The Transformational Leadership StrategistTM and Corporate Culture ArchitectTM working with visionary CEOs, pastors, and nonprofit leaders and their teams to develop a purpose-driven high-performance collaboration culture that significantly increases productivity, profits, and job satisfaction. http://synervision.us
This article is reprinted from Issue #8 of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!
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