Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday Wisdom: Pushing comfort zones for higher-quality board decisions

As I continue this year's immersion in group dynamics literature,  one of the most consistent messages remains the need for inviting and facilitating a certain level of creative tension in board deliberations. If we want the highest-quality decisions that lead to the highest-quality outcomes for our nonprofits, we can't fill the boardroom with people who look and think exactly like us. We also need people who will, as Lencioni says here, stretch us to think beyond the obvious and the comfortable.

At the same time, we require leadership that will help us build our capacity to handle those creative tensions productively - to not let those wide-open discussions deteriorate into heated, fear-inducing, enemy-making shouting matches. I've always understood that as being an essential role of leadership. My appreciation for the challenge, and the impact when one succeeds, has grown exponentially in he last eight months.


Christiane Dechert said...

I think different opinions and experiences are essential - IF the level of engagement of the individuals is similar. When all somebody has to offer is "a different opinion," without doing any of the work outside of meetings, hard feelings are the immediate consequence.

Debra Beck, EdD said...

Maybe it's because I've been immersed in group dynamics/teams literature all summer, but I can't help connecting this to factors that you and I both know to be critical: shared commitment to the larger purpose bringing board members together and shared ownership of/accountability for the work that advances it.

The optimal scenario (which, yes, can be an elusive state) is a board filled with members who are clear about why they're there, personally committed to advancing that mission, and individually and collectively accountable for ensuring that that happens in responsible ways. Holding ourselves - and each other - accountable for commitments made is a piece of the puzzle that essential (and not always acknowledged).