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Conflict Resolution Strategies in the Boardroom:
Establishing Clarity as a Leader

Boardroom table with chairs
As Chair there are moments when you will have an invaluable opportunity to clarify the organisation’s vision and this should be done from the outset of the first meeting.  As a leader recognize that board members will undoubtedly remember certain aspects more vividly than others, with some details inevitably fading from their recollection. It is therefore crucial to establish clear expectations on both sides, leaving no room for ambiguity . The following strategies are actionable steps that you can prepare to avoid the pitfalls of conflict within the boardroom during the organisation or businesses period of initiative for change.  

Aligning Expectations

What does this truly mean? It falls upon your shoulders to convey the characteristic enthusiasm and excitement, while striking the balance of offering a macro perspective on the desired outcome of the organization's vision.

The members on your board are going to be not only governing what you do as Chair, but will also be your supporting hand as it pertains to the sustainability of the organisation. Don’t feel you are asking members what they are supposed to do and they should not feel inadequate either. Examples being, the expected time a board member should be expected to spend on the organization’s work, fundraising, public speaking, meeting with stakeholders. These should all be a given if that is required of the board's function.

Smooth onboarding

One of the ways as Chair you can assist is by creating a board package that a board member will need to really get to know the policies, the mission, the structure and objectives of the organization when they join.

Board meetings

It will go without saying that as Chair your responsibility is to manage meetings to run smoothly effectively and efficiently with time stamps on each item on the agenda to be discussed and for starting and ending on time.

Give each board member a purpose

When you are giving time to a cause, you will want to make sure that members time is being spent wisely and not being underutilised. Make sure that every board member has a task that they can take ownership using their own special skill sets that they bring to the table. The required training and skills auditing will be pretty much standard

Create a transparent culture

I have mediated on several meetings where the issue of a transparent culture has been a point of conflict on the board. Being a champion of a transparent culture means  that your members genuinely feel that they were heard and valued. In doing so during the process they will commit to the decision. This will allow them to over come any resistance and commit to the plan.
That means that anyone on the board can offer their honest opinion without the fear of judgment and be accepted. This vulnerability of trust will naturally grow the more you get know the leadership team where the board room table will be a place where members can openly discuss their strengths and weaknesses and from there find the best solutions.
So you as Chair will need to be an example by responding reciprocally by listening respectfully, demonstrating empathy and not punishing members with a negative reaction within a safe environment.

Leverage your communication to members

As Chair you can communicate with your board members in small ways. Create a buddy system if there isn't one, with a board member who has more experience willing to provide support. I would also encourage you to consider mentoring. Be willing to share your wealth and experience and expertise. You can’t help but realise the value input that you are giving to board members.   As you are someone who has been around the block and knows what is around the corner,  having someone a member can trust and confide in will be a major benefit for them and extremely rewarding.

Measure the impact of the boards development

Finally, seize opportunities that will inspire board members to embrace the forthcoming organisational transformational change, the implementation and its impact. Apply your skills to effectively communicate the purpose while managing expectations. Measure the impact of your actions to avoid resistance and make necessary adjustments critical for the board's development. This will lead to a more engaged, high-performing board that is easier to retain and more interested in meeting the expectations you have set. 

Now it's your turn. I'd like to hear from you.
Which tip from today's conflict resolution strategy are you going to try first? 
Would you consider trying to create a board package or even mentoring?
Either way let me know by leaving a quick comment


Winnie Onyekwere LLB LLM
infographic board room objectives
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