Steps to Take When Your Board Faces a Storm

In a recent audit committee meeting, Mr. G was able to practice an emotional-focused technique to get his fellow directors back on track.
The meeting was being held over telephone and the discussion was getting heated. The topic at hand was highly sensitive and conflicting views were being expressed. It was clear the conversation was becoming somewhat emotional and drifting towards an argument rather than a resolution.  That’s when Mr. G recalled a technique from the 2016 Board Dynamics Session. In two steps he was able to refocus the committee and help achieve a positive outcome.

Step 1: Slow Down and defuse the intensity of the discussion  

Clearly, the committee discussion was heading off the rails.  Mr. G infused a compliment to all the directors while asking them to take a pause. He said, “Gentlemen, I admire your commitment to this board, it’s a sign of a strong healthy board when people are willing to risk expressing their views and debate a proper outcome for the company, our collective experience is meaningful to this situation.”  This unexpected comment caused everyone to pause and reflect for a moment on their participation.  That brief moment of silence was enough to reset emotions.

Step 2: Reaffirm that the board/committee is all working towards the same goal.

The next comment restarted the conversation by focusing on the desired outcome everyone wanted to see. Mr. G reinforced the idea that they all cared about clearing up the issue in a manner that it would not reoccur. This allowed everyone to step back, slow down, and refocus on how to fix the actual issues. They were able to attack the circumstances that triggered the issues and not those individuals working to find a resolution. A change in focus and less emotional pace enabled this committee to face the storm together as a united front and quickly find a resolution.

In this brief case, Mr. G was a member of the committee and not the chairman. This is not a unique case – defusing emotionally charged situations is often necessary when people feel their participation is viewed as being irrelevant and become defensive. Every director brings a different life experience to a boardroom and sometimes that experience is difficult for others to appreciate. Diversity and ability to debate is a strength of a board and keeping the debate focused on the issues and not attacking the person presenting their views yields a better outcome. Mr. G was able to keep these concepts in mind as he realigned his committee’s focus and they were able to reach a resolution without falling apart.

For a more in depth step by step process to implementing Board Dynamics, click to download our Stages and Steps Flowchart below.