We’ve all heard the old saying, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” When you hear it, you probably want to roll your eyes as you think to yourself, “Ugh! That’s so cliché and corny!” Yeah, well I felt the same way too until I recently experienced a board chair figuratively spell the word team with an 'I' at least six times during a board meeting. During that one board meeting, I observed 16 highly-experienced, professional, and articulate board members shrink from their responsibilities and limit their individual input, questions, and concerns. Why? The board chair’s behavior and comments indicated he believed his ideas and opinions were more important and informed than any others’. He behaved as if serving as board chair meant he was the smartest person in the room. He was wrong.
Being board chair doesn’t mean you’re the smartest person in the room
This particular board chair, during a strategic plan briefing that lasted less than 30 minutes, interjected comments at least six times along the lines of:
- “I think the team should also consider…”
- “Here’s what I think we need to focus on…”
- “I would like to see us…”
- “I would rather you…”
- “Well I’ve heard that…”
- “I know this is what…”
Serving as a board chair or president, doesn’t mean you are or you are supposed to be the smartest person in the room. It means you are supposed to be the leader of a board composed of intelligent, informed, and engaged leaders who can think, debate, and plan strategically. It means, you create an environment for your board to comfortably and confidently debate strategies based upon data and professional insights, not personal opinions. It means, you hold your personal and professional opinions in check until you’ve enabled your board to share theirs.
By rapidly interjecting his personal opinions, this board chair repeatedly shut down other board members who had questions, concerns or insights. With every uncontrolled comment by the chair, the other board members became more hesitant to speak up, share their perspectives, or heaven forbid, disagree with the chair. So none did. The fear of disagreeing with him or engaging in the discussion was noticeable. The more he pushed his own ideas, the more they withdrew into subservience. By putting his own perspectives and opinions forcefully before those of his fellow board members, he prevented his board from sharing the desired strategic and data-based feedback. By putting himself before the team, he prevented them from doing their jobs.
By putting yourself before your team, you prevent them from doing their jobs
To assess how well you are doing your job as a board chair or president, ask yourself a few questions:
- Does every board member speak up during our meetings?
- Do the board members comfortably challenge, debate, and disagree with one another and me for the good of the organization?
- When we move to start a topical discussion, does everyone look to me or do others take the lead in initiating them?
If your board isn’t comfortable doing their job, they may not be comfortable with your leadership. Assess how often you’re trying to spell ‘TEAM’ with an ‘I’.
Copyright MMXX - Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC – www.WBSLLC.com +1.717.597.8890
Liz supports clients with strategic and succession planning, as well as leadership training and executive coaching. Learn more about Liz on LinkedIn!