Company boards and teams have much to contend with in today’s changing business landscape. As organizations pivot to meet entirely new challenges, they rely on their board to support them and guide them. That takes a group of uniquely qualified people who are well informed and knowledgeable – but it also requires that they work well together as a team. Developing strong relationships is key to avoiding misunderstandings and tangled communications.
How can a board and team achieve all this and so much more? Research points to emotional connection as the key ingredient to success.
We recently published 10 Tips to Improve Board Dynamics for insight into how emotional connection can support board members working together, becoming more engaged, and feeling a greater sense of trust and accomplishment. In this article, we’ll cover tips one and two, along with specific examples, which can help begin your journey to creating a stronger board dynamic.
Tip 1: Positive board dynamics lead to effectively fulfilling duties and responsibilities.
Human beings are wired for connection with people we depend on. If that connection is lost, our brain becomes distressed – leading to a lack of ability to focus on tasks at hand or apply information. Positive dynamics are more possible when we emotionally reconnect with each other and free up our brains to overcome obstructions in our way. Fulfilling a board’s duties, making decisions, and overcoming challenges together become more successful when there are positive dynamics at play.
Example: The story of Bill, the one-way presenter
Bill, the CEO and Chairman of a private company had difficulty connecting with his board members. For a variety of reasons, Bill had chosen to minimize board presentations and discussions by becoming a one-way presenter. He would conduct presentations without allowing questions or offering time for discussion. He felt this was an effective solution that required no investment in understanding and bonding with his colleagues. However, a corporate governance issue highlighted the large cost that accompanies prolonged disconnections. During an internal investigation, one director revealed that he had known about the issue for six months but did not feel safe bringing it up. The disconnect between the CEO and the board members had devolved into a negative cycle of interactions, which eventually became quite costly for the company. Bill’s emotional disconnection from his board had significant financial consequences in addition to personal heartache for Bill and his colleagues.
Improving team dynamics
Tip 2: Emotional connection helps leaders create the right environment for positive dynamics to evolve and performance to soar.
Effective leaders must be emotionally present and aware of what is happening around them and within themselves, especially during stressful events or a crisis. When leaders close off emotionally, they may send the wrong signals to their team. For instance, when you feel worried, your team might perceive your signals and behavior to show anger or even aggression. It is important for leaders and board members to communicate effectively with clear signals. Speaking up and saying, “I feel worried,” is a way to exhibit softer emotions, be direct about what you are experiencing, and also create a relatable vulnerability that can pull people closer rather than push them away. Our emotional needs with each other are centered around key attachment questions:
Example: Cathryn and Greg – Deepening emotions
Cathryn, VP, and Greg, CEO, had a break in trust which impacted their relationship and interactions. It has been difficult for Catherine to have a conversation with Greg. She felt a wall automatically rise up when he was around her and can’t focus on anything he is saying. For Greg, no matter how many times he apologizes, it feels like it is never good enough. Cathryn and Greg were stuck in a terrible negative cycle. Eventually, they learned to identify their emotions, and they were able to express the softer feelings they experienced. Cathryn felt abandoned while Greg felt rejected. As difficult as it was, they had a productive conversation and discovered that those feelings had been hiding beneath the surface for a while. Once all the emotions were out in the open, Cathryn and Greg were able to support each other by repairing the relationship and reconnecting to escape the negative cycle they had been stuck in.
Establishing emotional intelligence and connection as a priority can help boards become high-functioning teams able to communicate clearly and without misunderstandings. It becomes a thread that binds the group with implicit trust and transparency in what is being said, goals being established and planning for future growth. Board members can bond and create a thriving culture with benefits to the entire organization.
Read 10 Tips to Improve Board Dynamics to learn additional ways emotional communication can help achieve better board dynamics and a thriving culture. Register for the upcoming Fundamentals of Emotional Connection virtual class to expand your skills!