Roles In Moving Forward
1. If you are the board chair
2. If you are the chair of the nominating or board development committee
3. If you are a current board member
4. If you are the executive director
1. If you are the board chair
- Board members are going to look to you to take the lead on resolving the conflict.
- If you are part of the conflict, step aside and allow someone who has the skills needed manage the conflict resolution process.
- If you do not have group process skills, find someone who does and let them lead the process.
- If only one or two people are involved, try taking them to lunch or setting up an informal meeting to talk about what is going on. See if you can get at the real issue that each person is concerned about. If they are legitimate issues, work together to find a way to proceed to get it resolved.
- Be direct about the fact that the way that board member is going about the issue is making it harder for other board members to hear what he or she is saying, and describe the changes that you feel need to take place.
- If the person is not willing to modify his or her interactions with the board, or the other party to the conflict, you may have to ask that the person or people take a break from the board until feelings or personal conflicts can be resolved.
2. If you are the chair of the governance committee or the vice-chair you are next in line for taking the lead on the issue.
- As a first step, discuss the matter with the board chair to suggest a way to approach the conflict, and determine who is best suited to taking the lead.
3. Other board members
- If you are not involved in the conflict, try testing your understanding of what is happening with other board members who do not seem caught up in the debate. You can also talk to some of the individuals who are involved to understand their perspective in a less heated context.
- If you are part of the debate, check with other board members to see how they are perceiving the situation. This is not the time to try to persuade them of your position. You are trying to see things from an uninvolved point of view.
- Talk to the board chair or other board officers about what you are seeing, and how you think the situation might be addressed.
- Support the board chair if you think s/he has the neutrality and skills required. If not, speak with the board chair privately to suggest an alternative, and how you think that alternative might help manage and defuse the situation. If you feel you have the skills and neutrality needed, by all means offer to take the lead.
- If you do not feel that your concerns are being heard when you talk to board officers, it is appropriate to raise them at a board meeting.
4. If you are the Executive Director
- First and foremost, your job is to stay neutral!
- Test your understanding of what is going on with the board chair, chair of the governance committee or other board members, and help them think through what steps are needed to move things forward.
- Help the board find an appropriate mediator by giving the appropriate board leader a list of suggested outside resources.
- Suggest potential resources to the board chair about successful approaches to managing conflict.
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