We expect a lot of big changes in the business world in 2017 – with a new administration, M&A on the rise, and shareholder activists playing a larger role in governance, your board will need positive board dynamics now more than ever. We also know that January is the best time for New Year’s Resolutions, so why not make better board dynamics yours?
How can you start introducing better board dynamics? Well, it is best to start with an understanding of what board dynamics are and where your board needs improvements.
Board dynamics are basically how your board works together. It’s kind of the unspoken relationship between board members that affects how work is done and the environment of the board and company. The best (and in our opinion, only) way to improve the dynamics of the board is to address emotion. On a broad level, emotion moves people – it can lead them to do great things or to destruction. This is why it is so essential to work with emotion to make emotion work for you.
So let’s get down to it – how can your board make 2017 the year of positive board dynamics?
- Start thinking of it as a lifestyle change. The board will have to integrate this thinking into their culture. It’s not a one-time change, you must constantly be working on emotional connection and board dynamics. You can get your board members to make deals on all kinds of pragmatic issues, you can teach them all kinds of skills, you can get them to negotiate, but if you want to improve your board effectiveness, you have to address the level of emotional responsiveness that is present in your board discussions.
- You need to have a good understanding of how flexible your board is currently. In system’s theory, a stuck system is constricted, it’s rigid, it can’t move and it can’t change to adapt to a new environment. It’s stuck. If you think about change in systemic terms, change is when you expand. You give board members more options. Board function in system terms mean that the board is flexible. It has the ability to adapt to a new environment. Examine your board’s flexibility by taking a Board Dynamics Questionnaire. This will give you a sense of where the board is at and will also point out some elements of your board that you might not have thought were important.
- Whatever goals your board has for the New Year, you’ll do better if you consider emotions. We work with emotion because it is the fastest way to create new kinds of interaction within the board and between the board and the executive team. Emotion is also the most powerful thing in the boardroom. For example, board members are always eager to learn new skills. Imagine I am going to teach you some skills but before I do that, I am going to put you high up on a cliff and you are on a very narrow ledge behind you is a stone wall. As you sit on that ledge, you feel the breeze through your toes. Now, I am going to teach you some skills. Are you listening? Are you going to learn them? Are you going to implement them? The thing is it is not about whether you have skills, it is about whether you can access them when you need them. If you are on the edge of a cliff, infused with anxiety, terrified and flooded with all kind of emotion, you will be not be able to access those skills or use them. The problem with strong emotion is that it not only transforms your world, it takes over all of your capacities. The point here is that we deal with emotion because it is a defining element in the boardroom, it organizes the interaction between board members and between the board and the executive team. It is very difficult to get around it. You have to deal with it. Not only that, but it is the fastest route to change.
There are many more elements to board dynamics, but this is a great start to get you moving towards better board dynamics in 2017.
If you would like more information about board dynamics or emotional connection, please contact us at [email protected].
Part 2: Dismantling a Lock-In in the Boardroom: An Emotionally Focused Approach to Board Effectiveness