In the last decade, I’ve observed all kinds of different boards. From public to private, big to small, I see the same pattern of interaction over and over again. I can see when a board is struggling and when it’s operating smoothly. The main difference between the two is emotional connection. Board directors who are emotionally connected have a strong positive affect on the rest of their board. They get better results and inspire greatness in others.
So let’s talk about what these super effective board directors don’t do on a regular basis.
- They Don’t Shut Directors Out. Emotionally connected board directors don’t shut down and they don’t stop engaging. They avoid saying things like, “I don’t want to discuss it.” Instead, they slow down the conversation by saying, “I am not able to focus on this right now, can we continue this tomorrow?”
- They Don’t Lose Control. They don’t allow emotions overwhelm them. They’ve learned how to tune into their emotional experience and ask for help in regaining their emotional balance. They don’t say, “This is BS, how can you do this?” Instead, they say, “This approach really worries me. Let’s have each of us express our view on this issue.” By addressing their felt discomfort early, they prevent a build-up of resentment and mistrust.
- They Don’t Shy Away From Conflicts. Fully engaged and connected board directors don’t try to avoid conflicts as they have a keen understating of how to make opposing directors feel understood and part of the decision-making process. When you are emotionally connected, conflicts do not scare you. Instead, you welcome differences of opinion and are open to explore new viewpoints.
- They Don’t Give Up On Relationships. You won’t hear emotionally connected board directors giving up on their relationships with others. They recognize that there are moments when individual directors have personal difficulties and are willing to provide a supportive environment for them to successfully re-engage with the board activities.
- They Don’t Hide Their Vulnerabilities. Emotionally connected board directors recognize when they get hurt. They know the importance of sharing it with their fellow directors. They are not afraid to be vulnerable. Instead, they strive to be open and honest to let themselves be seen as they are. This pulls directors closer and inspires others to follow suit.
- They Don’t Fear of Trying New Styles. Emotionally connected board directors don’t fear of incorporating new communication styles in their interaction with others. They constantly look for ways to improve their skills in creating emotional connection and help others to create a coherent and legible message when sharing their concerns and worries.
- They Don’t Hold On To Resentments. Emotionally connected directors don’t waste their energy on holding on to resentments. They recognize that connection with people who are important to us is our most basic longing and burdening yourself with resentments leaves you isolated and alone.
- They Don’t Fear of Making Mistakes. They don’t make foolish mistakes, but have no fear of making one either. It is much easier to avoid mistakes when directors are supportive of each other. And if a mistake happens, they will help each other to recover together.
- They Don’t Lose Their Excitement. Emotionally connected directors are excited for others’ successes. They don’t withhold compliments and recognitions. Instead, they cherish those moments and get more excited than if those same things happened to them.
- They Don’t Ever Stop Engaging. They don’t view engaging with others as a burden. Instead they recognize that our capacity to engage with each other and communicate indeed is one of, if not the core driving, factor in the creating emotional connection.
- They Don’t Fear Attachment. Emotionally connected directors understand the purpose and recognize the value of secure attachment. They aren’t afraid of forming bonds as they know that human beings thrive in secure and safe relationships with others.
- They Don’t Stop Progress. They don’t setup barriers and roadblocks that prevent the board from moving forward. Instead, they stay accessible, responsive and engaged. They understand that in order for the board to be productive, they need to be emotionally connected. This connection provides directors with the confidence they need to address challenges together and keep the company moving forward.
- They Don’t Take Board Relationships for Granted. Emotionally connected board directors value their board relationships. They know that creating an effective board is challenging and takes a lot of work. They also know that when the board is emotionally connected, serving on a board becomes a lot more fun and personally satisfying.
In conclusion, just as Einstein sought a unifying theory to make his discoveries of the physical universe into a coherent whole, becoming an effective board starts with developing emotional connection. As John Naisbitt said, “The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.”
Part 3 Dismantling a Lock-In in the Boardroom: An Emotionally Focused Approach to Board Effectiveness