In my last post I talked about the importance of building consensus in Board meetings. The article spoke to the kinds of information a Board needs in order to make a consensus happen.
This article will speak to the difficult process of handling a disagreement about a decision, when it happens. This can be a painful time for all concerned. But let’s not forget that reasonable people can disagree. In fact, Board members participating well in the responsible role they play can be valuable assets if they voice a different viewpoint.
So let’s look at some ways that can be productive.
1) A spokesperson for the different view should make it clear what the different position is. He/she should speak of the specifics and data to support the viewpoint. It can be done in the meeting or by letter to the Board chairman.
- It might be wise to ask an expert in the area of disagreement, if the spokesperson is not comfortable or able to put the information forward successfully. The expert can be presented at the meeting and/or provide supporting documentation.
2) The Board chairman has the responsibility to see that an open discussion occurs so that all Board members understand the various viewpoints and reasons for the disagreement.
3) It is important to have the record of the discussion in the minutes. At a later time, when questions are possibly raised as to the origins and process whereby the decision was made, the minutes help clarify and support the reasons behind the decision. This is very important if there are any legal or financial outcomes from the decision.
4) Once the decision is made, it is ethical to support the decision and not voice opposition to the decision publicly. Hopefully by this time, the decision is more acceptable with those who challenged it, and they can live with the decision.
5) If, after Board members have openheartedly agreed and disagreed, but still went with the decision, it is time to decide if you can live with the decision. You may consider resigning from the Board. It is appropriate to write a letter of resignation and send it to the chairman. You have fulfilled your responsibility to engage, inform, and influence how the business is run. Move on and don’t bad mouth the organization. You are on record as to your reasons and that is sufficient.