By Kevin Smith
Let me guess … your board meeting has gone digital and virtual, right? Lucky guess or what?!
Credit Union Board Chairs – Let’s talk about that move to virtual. Let’s talk about what that means for you and how things need to change.
Let’s be clear. This move is not like moving to a different meeting room while your board room gets painted. This isn’t a simple change of physical space. The meetings will need to be managed differently and more carefully.
As you probably already know, it’s going to take a while for everyone to get used to this. Be patient but not so much so that you let things fall through the cracks. Discussion may be clunky as only one person can speak at a time. This tends to make people stay more silent than usual. That may be a welcome relief from Chatty-Charlie but your quieter board members are likely to go invisible altogether. That’s not acceptable.
Communication Breakdown: Is it always the same?
First, you’re going to need to manage the group in a more calculated way with more overt rules to keep things running smoothly. This means communication and more communication, and then a bit more. Don’t worry about being redundant redundant.
Send as much as you can ahead of time, with regular reminders. (Think how many times you’ve lost the first reminder you got about something and then had to dig for it in your email!)
Now, when you start the meeting, give clear instructions about how you will be managing the meeting. Don’t take little things for granted that you would at an in-person meeting.
“Here’s how we’re going to handle the discussion and agenda for today:
We’ll use raised hands AND voice for making a motion and for a second.
You all have a post-it note next to you. Raise the post-it when you want to jump in about something.”
Taking Advantage of Visual Cues
And here’s a little trick I picked up from L. David Marquet in Leadership is Language:
Rather than asking yes/no questions, like, “does anyone have any objections?” or “Do we all agree?” (These invite simple agreement and groupthink.) Try, “With one hand, give me a zero to five. How confident are you about taking this approach?” (BTW – Marquet’s book is fantastic! I highly recommend it.)
This not only takes advantage of the visual cues, but also gives insight about low or high confidence – always valuable to the conversation. They all may have voted yes, but a person who is a “one” for confidence is far different than the person who gave a “five.” That’s your chance to tease this out and have the right kind of debate.
Make these things clear. And as chair, in this setting, you’ll need to be a bit more active about drawing out voices. You don’t need people to chat, just for the sake of chatting, but you DO need to make sure there’s healthy debate.
And then there’s always the trick of assigning the role of devil’s advocate on a rotating basis.
There should be lots of “mores.”
- More communication
- More preparation
- More done in between meetings
- More “managing” of the meeting in a calculated way.
- More managing of any tendency towards silence.
- More facing hesitance and spotting it and digging in deeper.
- More talk via phone in between. (Not everything has to be on Zoom video, for crying out lout!)
No. This virtual think did NOT necessarily make your job any easier, I’m afraid. But you’ll find that these are easy things to incorporate and in short order they’ll become customary and help things along. You might even find some things that ARE in fact helping you make some much needed changes in the board dynamic.