In the last decade, the subject of board dynamics has gained significant attention. As organizations seek to boost board performance, board dynamics has become one of the focal points for improvement. There are real connections between a board that functions at its highest level and a company’s financial success. Much of it has to do with directors working well together, and the type of environment created in meetings.
The answer is emotions. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves while others seem to suppress them. In both cases, the key is to command emotions. This is accomplished through emotional safety.
What can you do that to help to create an environment of emotional safety? People tend to be ashamed of their feelings, so we start with where they are at and we don’t coach them to be different. It is important to practice empathy and validate emotions. Help them to look at their experience and put it together in a different way to elicit a better emotional reaction.
You can start by saying something like, “I’ve been reading this guide about board effectiveness and it talks about the importance of emotions. I realized that we rarely talk about how we’re feeling about certain decisions, which is crazy because we face so many stressful situations together.”
Just starting the conversation makes a huge difference. Letting your colleagues know that you won’t judge them for feeling fear or anxiety establishes a safe environment. Showing them that you are vulnerable and you also need emotional safety puts everyone on the same page.
If you can start by tuning in to how you are feeling, even if it is vague or uncertain and telling your board member(s) that you want to share this with them, you can begin coordinating new steps in a more balanced interaction. Taking a breath and moving one step at a time, you will start create the connection. That is a place to start.
The thing about understanding emotional connection is not about just understanding emotions, it is realizing that we are human beings who have a mammalian brain. We are not really different from each other. We are all are terrified of rejection. We are terrified of not mattering to other people or feeling abandoned and alone. We are all longing to matter to the board we serve and we all want to know that when we call, our board members will respond to us. This is instinctively who we are. In a way, this is not just about creating board effectiveness, it is about a basic need in creating a safe and secure connection.
Feeling your emotion, connecting with your members, and learning to talk about it. A good board member steadies you so that you can get back to balance. It is constantly changing, it is constantly thrilling and as a result, you change the dynamics in the boardroom.