In Board Performance, foresight, Governance, Tips

Boards need EQ to successfully raise a sensitive issue

A board needs EQ to raise sensitive issues in order to improve its effectiveness.

Boards need EQ too

Consider this situation, where the Board does not use EQ:

The treasurer on your board is concerned that internal controls are not as tight as they should be. She duly raises this as a topic at a board meeting: “how can we improve internal controls?” The ED or CEO responds with: “we have always done it that way, no one else has any concerns, so we really don’t see an issue there”.

That is a clearly a defensive response that raises hackles and does not move the organization forward. Trust is eroded and another course of action is required. Pushing the point will only increase the defensiveness.

Net result is there is no traction for this idea or worse, the ED / staff feel defensive. They signal is that it is not the board’s business to check on internal controls. And so the issue (if it exists) has hit a brick wall.

What is an alternate path?

Consider this situation, where the Board uses EQ:

The treasurer on your board is concerned that internal controls are not as tight as they should be.  She raises the issue in camera. The Chair requests some evidence for this notion, and  takes it as an action item for the next private one on one with the ED. During that meeting the chair,

  • Should raise the concern (with examples) that show why the organization is better off if internal controls are tightened,
  • Then asks if the ED agrees and if so, asks how we can work on suggestions to proceed.

The ED is much less likely to feel defensive or threatened here as it is a private conversation. Trust may even be enhanced. They agree that there are areas of improvement that can be made that will safeguard the organization. They also agree that at the next meeting the ED should raise it as a topic to address, thus putting power back in his hands.

Bottom line here is that by using a bit of EQ the board can address the issues it knows are important.

The situation is improved by finessing it so that any one person’s position is not threatened but rather, enhanced.