If you observe successful boards, you will see that they have unrivaled ability to cooperate, trust, and manage through hard times. Although directors have fiduciary duties, you can’t make them collaborate or trust each other – but if you create the right environment, loyalty, collaboration, and trust happen naturally.
In order to protect us from danger, our brain sensors constantly assess our environment. When safe connections are lost with people who we depend on, the brain presses a panic button and goes into a fight-or-flight mode. By increasing emotional connections, directors can turn to each other instead of on each other when stress is high. This action creates secure emotional bonds and improves performance on the board.
Secure emotional bonds are the basis of positive board dynamics. There are three components which play an important role in positive board dynamics that CEOs and directors can aim to improve – accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement.
Accessibility is how available you are to your fellow directors and chairs.
Staying open and receptive to ideas despite your concerns and worries increases your accessibility and your emotional connection. Next time you are feeling stressed, try to stay attuned and emotionally present to hear the other person’s point of view. You may not agree with the idea but giving them an opportunity to be heard makes the person feel valued and important which creates a sense of belonging and safety.
Responsiveness is how available you are to respond to your CEO and directors emotionally.
Because directors depend on each other to make decisions, the brain automatically senses each other’s emotions. Thus, if one director is concerned, it inevitably effects other directors. Having the ability to share that you are affected by another concern and worry establishes your responsiveness to their discomfort. Saying things like, “I am affected by your concern. I appreciate that you have shared it with me and I want to stay with it and make you feel safe” gives verbal reassurance that they are not alone. Being responsive, helps to dissolve emotions of stress for the other person and provides them comfort. The best way to make decisions is when each person on the board feels understood.
Engagement shows that you value your CEO and directors.
Active engagement means being emotionally present and actively engaged in discussions. It is being fully present – not looking at your phone or thinking about the next meeting agenda, it is being attuned to what’s going on in the moment. Engagement is when a person is saying something, others are actively listening. When people feel that others are engaged, it gives them strength, confidence, and demonstrates that they have value. Showing interest in other’s response, input, and feedback increases emotional connection, providing a special kind of attention and creates a safe place to come to and a secure base to go from.
By focusing on your accessibility, responsiveness, and engagement as a CEO and a Director, you will increase your emotional connection and elevate your board performance.
For more information on how you and your directors can unlock the potential of your board, contact us at [email protected].
Part 2: Dismantling a Lock-In in the Boardroom: An Emotionally Focused Approach to Board Effectiveness