Finding the Source of Board Member Hesitation | Cut to the Candor (Part One)

Preserving candor in your board of directors can make or break effective deliberation. Effective decision-making relies on informed, honest, and direct communication. So, why are honest insights often so hard to find? What can you do to ensure your board cuts straight to the candor when making a decision? Let’s find out in the first installment of our two-part series — Cut to the Candor: Breaking the Ice for Honest Insights!

Why the Hesitation?

Coaxing candor out of someone dead set on giving vague or waffling responses is frustrating, but people give those responses for a reason. Understanding how to best break the ice among board members means understanding why the ice is there in the first place. At the start of the meeting, consider the following questions:

Is a subordinate on a panel with a senior employee?

Involving employees from a range of seniority levels in decision-making is an important step in gathering diverse opinions and reducing bias. However, junior-level employees may be hesitant to give their honest input on an issue if they feel as though they’re being judged by others in the room.

Are friendships preventing responses that risk hurting feelings?

All too often, board members are appointed on the basis of friendship rather than expertise. You can read more about why that’s a bad idea in our article, “How to Prioritize Influence in Your Bank’s Board Decisions”.

Is anyone deliberating with the group for the first time?

People aren’t always comfortable offering input in an unfamiliar environment. It could be a new board member offering input for the first time. It could be a committee comprised of board members who feel less comfortable sharing in a smaller setting. Regardless of the reason, any change in the decision-making environment or the makeup of decision-makers jeopardizes the candor of the conversation.

Has the group grown too comfortable with each other?

While hesitancy in sharing with an unfamiliar group of deliberators can pose a threat to the preservation of candor, the opposite is also true. Board members can easily become too comfortable in their group dynamic. This comfort increases with each meeting. Before long, decision-makers risk sacrificing their ability to objectively and critically evaluate ideas for the sake of maintaining the comfort of group harmony.

These make up a small handful of the many factors contributing to “safe” responses in a discussion session. Getting a sense of why a board or committee member may be holding back in deliberation can help in determining the best method for breaking the ice. However, it’s important to always assume that the “ice” is there. Break it. Even if you don’t think you need to.

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That wraps up Part One of our series on cutting to the candor with your board. For more insights into how your organization can make better decisions across the board, visit our blog. To see how Directorpoint’s easy-to-use board management software is helping boards make better decisions every day, schedule a demo!

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