Last updated: Friday, 11 July 2014 | Rāmere, 11 Hōngongoi, 2014
The strength of boards lies in their ability to incorporate many different, sometimes strongly-held perspectives in making decisions. An effective chair, backed by a strong vision for the organisation and clear board protocols, can make sure all perspectives are taken into account This ensures directors and trustees reach decisions supported by all.
All boards bring together a range of views and experiences. These differences stimulate the kind of debate that leads to good decisions. When debate is curbed or silence is taken as consent symptoms of Group Think can lead to poor decision making.
Boards of Māori organisations may also encounter dynamics that are particular to Māori board rooms such as:
- Tribal differences
- A preference for making decisions by consensus rather than a simple majority win
- Situations where younger members do not fully express their views out of deference to older directors or trustees
All dynamics that interfere with the ability of the board to fulfil its role need to be faced and managed.
Some ways to assess and manage ongoing differences in the boardroom are:
- Board self-evaluation - to ensure that all members understand their roles
- Using an outside mentor or facilitator - to work through fundamental issues and establish protocols for addressing sensitive issues where factors such as tribal differences or age diversity will play an ongoing role
Some ways to manage conflicting views in the boardroom are:
- Promoting an open, trusting climate
- Avoiding any one person being too directive
- Encouraging everyone around the table to have an opportunity to express their viewpoint, particularly when sensitive issues are tabled
- Arranging for reports to be presented to the board from outside advisors to enhance the level of understanding and to give external perspectives
- Allowing time to the strongest critics to give their views and benefit from the discussion to understand the view points of others.
If there is a lot of tension and misunderstanding, it is often helpful to adjourn the meeting for a short time, or agree to postpone further discussion of the contentious item until the next board meeting, or to a scheduled time in between board meetings. This gives people time to consider other perspectives and to seek more information.
- Separate the people from the issue under discussion and avoid personalities blurring the clarity of debate
- Generate options which might lead to a compromise
- Use objective criteria to make decisions
- Postpone consideration of an issue if misunderstandings arise due to lack of, or misleading information.
The strength of boards lies in their ability to incorporate many different, sometimes strongly-held, perspectives in making decisions. An effective chair, backed by a strong vision for the organisation and clear board protocols, can make sure all perspectives are taken into account and that directors/trustees reach decisions that are supported by all.
Sometimes, however, differences in view can start to slow a board down in achieving its purpose. The best way to manage these differences is to have a clearly set out process for reaching decisions as part of the board's processes and policies.