Friday, June 19, 2015

Boardroom Body Language

Here’s some empathy today for all the board chairs and CEOs who pray and prepare for effective board meetings—and sometimes drive home discouraged. Board members tell me they experience some or all of the following irritants in most meetings:

Unintentional Lack of Eye Contact. Sometimes, the room layout prevents eye contact with every board member—which impedes effective communication. (Long, narrow conference tables rarely facilitate robust conversations. Unless the table is named after a major donor, this has an easy fix—change rooms or change tables.)

Intentional Lack of Eye Contact. I say “intentional” because when a board member prioritizes his or her iPhone over his or her colleagues, it divides the room into two groups: 1) “We need a no device rule!” or 2) “Welcome to the 21st Century, Henrietta! Get over it!”

Folded Arms and Closed Heart. The oft-quoted research says that 93 percent of our communication is non-verbal. So when your favorite curmudgeon (the one that’s occupied the same chair location for 27 years) crosses his arms, whispers his patented “Harrumph!” and tunes out of the discussion—his non-verbal “no vote” poisons the discussion even before the vote is called for.

The answer to these under-the-table conflicts? Talk about it. 

You don’t need a committee. You don’t need to publish the 10 Commandments of Boardroom Protocol, but you can agree on the preferred culture you’d appreciate in your meetings. When you’re recruiting new board members (similar to recruiting staff), you’ll want to know—up front—if the candidate is in alignment with your culture. To do that, your culture needs to be crystal clear.

Usually, you don’t need to elevate irritants to the Matthew 18 level—but the standard is still a good one. Peacemaker® Ministries, an ECFA-accredited member, has a helpful “4 G” approach to conflict resolution. The first is “Glorify God.”  The second “G” is “Get the log out of your own eye.”

They add: “One of the most challenging principles of peacemaking is set forth in Matthew 7:5, where Jesus says, ‘You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’

“There are generally two kinds of ‘logs’ you need to look for when dealing with conflict. First, you need to ask whether you have had a critical, negative, or overly sensitive attitude that has led to unnecessary conflict. One of the best ways to do this is to spend some time meditating on Philippians 4:2-9, which describes the kind of attitude Christians should have even when they are involved in a conflict.”

Suggestion: Visit Peacemaker® Ministries for all four “G’s” and share these at your next board meeting. May God bless your work, your words and your non-verbal body language!

QUESTION: When is the last time you’ve talked about boardroom protocol and culture with your board?

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