Creating a relationship of trust with your Board of Directors

Getting there together

A few weeks ago I was in a meeting with an executive director of an organization that was facing difficulties with its board of directors. She shared with me that she was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with work. She has a staff to manage, a year-end to submit and reports complete for the investors. Once a month, she attends a meeting with the Board of Directors scheduled over two days and it was starting to make her anxious. She knows that she was doing quality work and managing her staff in an exemplary manner, but feels anxiety and negative stress when it comes time to meet with the Board.  I ask her why, and she told me that during the meetings she feels judged, scrutinized and questioned. She feels all the responsibility is on her shoulders. She didn't know how to get out of this discomfort. 

This is a situation that I can empathize with because I've been in her shoes before. Anxious, stressed and pushed to the point where we question our management skills. Where we felt our self-confidence was battered.

The role of the Board of Directors is to support senior management in organizational strategies, not to control all decisions. The board and management must work as a team to lead the organization. It must give management sufficient autonomy and engage in dialogue to ensure the organization's vision (BNQ, 2011; Cadieux and Dion, 2012).

The relationship between the board and management often reflects the performance of the organization. A relationship of trust, based on respect and dialogue and shared leadership increases the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization. How do we create this kind of relationship? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Educate the Board of Directors and senior management on their roles and responsibilities.
  • Clarify the strategy and practice using it every time we want to make decisions.
  • Ask the question. "Is this our role, or the role of management and staff?”
  • Co-creating the organization's strategy with clerical staff; this increases commitment and understanding. 
  • Encourage open and honest dialogue using effective meeting techniques such as Liberating Structures, Art of Hosting, Open space forum and agile.

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