Our first blog of 2017 discusses how we can improve the quality of Board conversations to prevent them getting “stuck” in order to allow businesses to grow and develop. Our guest blogger is Margaret Williamson, Director of Boardroom Development. Margaret has over 20 years of experience of researching and working with Boards and shares some of her insights in the blog.
If you have any questions or comments on the blog, please do get in touch with us or with Margaret directly.
The average business misses out on £700,000 of untapped potential through poor leadership practices. Ineffective leadership is at the root of high staff turnover, high sickness absence rates, customer satisfaction below par and low employee productivity. (You can work out the untapped potential in your own business by entering your data in the model created by leadership guru Dr Ken Blanchard.)
Matt Henderson, Insolvency Practitioner and Head of Restructuring at Johnston Carmichael told me recently that a business will never survive unless they are able to manage themselves effectively. When a business fails there is usually evidence of ineffective communication, conflict, poor relationships and lack of trust at board level. “Financial failure is usually a symptom of deeper human issues at work”.
Since 80% of what we do as leaders and managers involves face-to-face conversation, this is the best place to start.
Here are 3 things that will improve your conversations, relationships and trust in the boardroom and help you access the untapped potential of your business.
1. Understand your own conversational preferences
Every face to face conversation we have boils down to four basic speech actions.
All of these actions are necessary for effective conversation. If there was no Mover there would be no direction to a conversation. If there was no Follower then decisions wouldn’t be made and nothing would be followed through. If there was no Opposer, there would be no correction. The opportunity to improve on ideas would be missed. If there was no Bystander, there would be no perspective; no linking of ideas; no naming of difficult issues.
We each have a preference for one of these actions and sometime we overuse them even when the conversation calls for something else. This is self-limiting and often unhelpful for other members of the Board. For example, we have probably all come across someone who opposes every suggestion made or someone who goes off in so many new directions at once that we end up confused.
Knowing your own conversational preference will help you use it more consciously. Practicing the other actions and using them appropriately with improve the quality and effectiveness of your conversations.
2. Understand the conversation preferences of your Board
Understanding your own preferences and those of your Board will help you identify communication problems in advance. Then you can act deliberately to change them.
If your Board has mostly Movers, as is often the case in competitive businesses, there will be lots of ideas, suggestions or opinions generated in the conversation. You will need Followers to take some of those Moves forward.
If it has mostly Followers there will be a lack of leadership. Everyone will be waiting for someone else to determine the direction. You risk ‘group think’. You will need Opposes to challenge complacency and passivity.
Where there are a lot of Opposers you can expect a contentious atmosphere where ideas are constantly blocked or closed down. You will need Bystands to help bridge competing ideas and convert Opposes to more productive Moves.
Where there are mostly Bystanders the atmosphere will be passive, with much reflection and analysis but minimal progress. You will need Moves to create action and direction.
3. Learn to ‘Read the Room’
By observing the patterns of conversation taking place in our face-to-face conversations, whether one to one or in groups, we can identify when conversations get stuck and intervene deliberately to change them.
To find out more about the structure of board conversations contact
Margaret Williamson on Margaret@boardroomdevelopment.com or 07767 225813.
Margaret Williamson, Director, Boardroom Development has been researching and working with boards for more than 20 years. She is accredited in Structural Dynamics (the theory of face to face conversation) by the Kantor Institute in Boston, Mass.