The shift to remote or hybrid working has changed board dynamics in different ways.
Board member communications has required some degree of recalibration in the absence of face-to-face and physical meetings. It has never been more critical for board members to have effective communication skills.
The end-goal of effective board member communication is to foster a board culture where information is delivered clearly, and board members are engaged, informed, and intentional about propelling the agenda forward.
We offer 5 tips that will help attain that objective.
1. Set a clear and concrete communications strategy.
It’s critical to have a communications strategy that’s cascaded down to board members and senior executives. This roadmap can be documented so board members are on the same page when it comes to defined communication practices.
This document should include how often, or soon, board communications are sent out, accepted formats (e.g., paper or digital, suggested templates, etc.), and go as granular as indicating the method to use to best reach board members (i.e., phone call, email, or text).
Consider the guide a living document — one that evolves over time to accommodate what makes sense for the board. It’s not meant to be restrictive. But establishing initial baseline communication requirements and procedures sets board member expectations and clarifies roles and responsibilities. A good communication strategy prevents critical information from falling through the cracks.
2. Ensure productive and efficient meetings.
Effective communication is of primary importance during board meetings. It is, after all, how things get done.
While the Chair has a prescribed role at board meetings, other members of the board need to be cognisant of different communication styles— that of others, and their own — at play. For example: Are you dominating discussions? Is everyone around the table given ample “air time”?
Board meetings should follow the agenda for structure. However, there should be reasonable accommodation for members to address subjects that may be an offshoot of an agenda item. The Chair often makes the call as to what topics merit time for debate or discussion, and which ones can be parked for future deliberation. Regardless, board members must feel acknowledged, otherwise engagement levels fall.
As discussed in our e-book, effective meetings leave board members feeling that:
- They’re better informed than when they initially joined the meeting.
- They were given the opportunity to discuss issues and provide their points of view.
- Their input was heard, understood and factored-in as part of the decision-making process.
3. Communicate more, not less.
If one has to make a decision, it would be better to err on the side of over-communicating, than that of infrequent communication. Communicating more increases the likelihood that board members are given better and proper context to address crises or situations. It also can ensure that issues are escalated more quickly and routed to the appropriate teams for timely resolution.
This is also why informal meetings and check-ins are important. They not only build rapport and elevate engagement amongst board members, but they also present opportunities to address roadblocks, track progress, or identify and mitigate risks early on.
4. Implement the right board technology for efficient communication.
Without appropriate communication methods, the communication strategy becomes moot and academic. Investing in board communication tools prevents this from happening. Board portals centralise board communications and discussions, and ensure board members remain informed and engaged.
With a board portal platform, such as Boardlogic, board meeting materials are available, accessible, and up-to-date. Directors and senior executives work with a single source of truth. Board members no longer have to manage messy, lengthy email threads or papers, or establish their own version control processes to acquire the information they need. All board members work and review the same meeting assets every time, eliminating confusion and missteps in communication.
Board portal technology also makes it easier for board members to keep track of action items via task tracking functionalities. They can also collaborate with each other in between meetings through messaging features. The board’s workflow is made more efficient, allowing for enhanced, seamless board member interaction. Communication breakdowns are minimised.
5. Ask questions, and encourage feedback.
It’s important to ask questions, and hold space for others to ask their own. Assumptions can be costly and dangerous. Questions can identify blindspots and clarify issues, all of which lead to better decision-making.
It’s just as critical for board members to evaluate their own communication styles and seek the feedback of fellow board members to identify areas of improvement. This builds upon a leadership culture of openness and transparency, and leads to improved boardroom dynamics.
It goes without saying that effective board communication minimises the potential for conflict or misunderstandings. But it can’t be merely reduced to that.
Open, clear, and transparent board member communication translates to significant and substantial gains: from higher engagement levels to the alignment and attainment of set goals. If board members are provided with the right channels and strategies for meaningful conversations to take place, there’s greater motivation to succeed. This ultimately leads to decisive actions that support the vision and mission of the organisation.