‘64% of boards had a low or below average impact on a company’s long-term value creation’ (McKinsey)
The main factors cited were flawed strategies and incompetent people in management roles. Another significant factor was that of poor communication.
If I ask any of you readers to think back to a time of frustration and agitation, I would imagine most of those situations involved at the very least some form of poor communication as a strong contributing factor. Think about some of the meetings you’ve had – the sense of frustration, resentment and irritation you might feel during supposedly open discussions. When you see many are at cross purposes and your joint purpose has been blurred or worse, forgotten; or when you see that you’ve been purposefully ignored and/or patronized to whilst trying to raise a valid point. The fallout of poor communication and its negative impact on the wider community can be seen in examples such as Oxfam, Tesla, Boeing – to name but a few.
The business environment in which we work is constantly changing and challenging and it is even more vital today that board members are proficient at communicating their business’ vision and mission, and to ensure that their message is effective to build a unified, supportive and loyal team.
At an individual level
Directors need to be able to communicate well in order to favourably gain support for their choices; persuade others in pursuit of their viewpoint; and to successfully discuss with those who resist those choices. These skills are required for within the board and to the wider organization, all of which are likely to require very different skills, depending on the audience and its appetite for change or something different.
Vital skills required include:
- Navigating the politics and power plays within the boardroom – knowing who is allied with whom, how to manage those individuals and their alignments
- Evolving influencing skills to nurture and forge mutual relationships
- Persuading and influencing as opposed to exploiting and coercing
- An ability to negotiate and strategise
- A talent for opposing if required whilst still being focused on the vision and mission
Clearly these skills take a long time to acquire, let alone master. However, their benefits will far outweigh the practice it takes. They include:
- A better appreciation of the interpersonal dynamics of the board, its members and their function
- Greater comprehension of fellow board members’ motivators – as individuals and as a group, which in turn will impact other factors such as communication, influencing, negotiations and general interactions
- Forging resilient and successful strategies for greater success in the boardroom and for the wider business
- Deeper understanding of others’ communicating styles for optimal results and to influence teams for maximum impact
- Better manage resistance and any possible power gaps
At board level
- Develop and communicate a defined board communication strategy
- Define and communicate roles
- Build superior communication skills for all individuals
- Select the most appropriate board communication channels
- Listen, ask questions and never make assumptions
- Document all changes and communicate them to those involved
It is critical that boards have a feasible solution to ensure seamless board communications amongst its members. A flexible and proven way to convey any developments among board members helps to assure greater success as the board conducts its strategy.
The capacity to work together effectively will positively contribute to overall board coherence and even promote greater success, as a unified board often achieves far more than a board laden with unhealthy conflict, doubt and a lack of clear communication.