By John Worne

Boards sometimes need to listen to all the players – not just the loudest – to really perform.

It’s a tough job chairing any kind of board; you’re there to assure scrutiny, accountability and governance. But the pressure is always on to ‘get through the business’, cut discussion short and ‘keep out of the weeds’ of detail.

It’s all to easy for a board to trot through the business, pander to the odd person’s pet prejudices and the odd hobby horse but sidestep the big issues.

One technique is for the meeting Chair to take a key strategic item (especially the most controversial ones) and deliberately step round each person at the table to invite their view. 

It takes a little time, but far less than most Chairs fear. And it’s well worth it.

Why?

1) In any board there’s a whole roomful of valuable insight and diverse experience.

2) The loudest voices on any given theme usually represent the extremes; not the reasonable middle ground. Hear more views and everyone adapts to each other helping the outliers inform and adapt their position too.

3) A ready consensus on what really matters and what to do about it, is often being missed due to the (usually ungrounded) fear of one or two discordant opinions which often resolve or at least moderate before your eyes. No-one really likes to be a lone voice, especially when they’re getting no traction.

Paradoxically, board and meeting harmony often comes from hearing more voices rather than fewer – the very opposite of what Chairs often feel they have to do to get to a good and timely outcome.

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