Thursday, February 27, 2014

Board competency 4: Engage respectfully with divergent personalities, perspectives

This is the fourth in a 10-part weekly series expanding upon the core nonprofit board competencies that I laid out in a recent post.

Core board competency 4: The capacity to engage respectfully with a wide range of personalities and worldviews.

There's a certain "well, du-uh..." quality to this competency. As adults, we all should be able to hear, discuss, respect and analyze a range of perspectives that inform the decisions that are part of nonprofit governance.

It is an essential capacity for our boards (and adults generally). Yet because board members share a common commitment to the organization's mission and vision of how things should be. There can be an (unspoken) expectation that "unity" equals "never question or stir up things." We need to get over that, especially if we're serious about recruiting members who don't look, think, and act exactly like we do. 

I've written before about the importance of appreciating and working with the right kind of board conflict. I'll not rehash what I shared in that earlier post, but I will reinforce the need for not just tolerating but seeking out and finding the best possible options for our organizations.

With respect to this competency, we need the following from every board member:
  • Open-mindedness
  • Respect for our common commitment to vision and mission
  • Ability to communicate respectfully even/especially when we disagree
  • Appreciation for the value in hearing and learning from differing points of view

This blog's "board dynamics" page captures posts that address this capacity, and building an effective board culture more generally. I'd be interested in hearing about not only experiences that challenge civil board engagement but that represent boards that welcome the chance to interact with a diverse range of perspectives.

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