Four Steps for Maintaining Civility in a Complicated Era

March 1, 2019
By Caroline Hoy, Content Marketing Specialist, Boardable

There is no doubt about it, this is a challenging time for corporate and board culture. Changing demographics mean that the two largest age groups in the workforce are the Baby Boomers and Millennials, who have different approaches to almost everything. The political climate of the past several years is increasingly tense. Changing racial dynamics in the country provide a wealth of opportunity and advantages, but also challenges. How does a board of directors maintain a productive and civil culture with so many complicating factors?

The answer may be the same as for any other board governance issue: establish expectations, regularly survey members, and adjust accordingly.

4 Steps for Purposeful Civility

Let’s start with a few basics for cultivating a board that respects each other and functions efficiently and productively, no matter the composition of individuals.

1)    Unify under the banner of the mission. Everyone is involved for the same reason, which is to further the goals of the association. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting to remind everyone of successes or growth since the last meeting. Reminding the group of why they are there will increase cohesion in the group, and an excitement for achieving more together.

2)    Set expectations for conduct, and add them to bylaws if needed. The best way to head off tensions is to have guidelines in place. Make sure your organization has a code of conduct in your handbook. It should include things such as a sexual harassment policy, guidelines about making decisions independently of personal affiliations, expectations of treating each other with respect, and procedure for redirecting conversation to the agenda if needed.

3)    Conduct surveys of board members, staff, volunteers, and consultants a few times a year to check in with everyone’s comfort level. This doesn’t need to be complex, just a few questions about if the environment feels generally welcoming, unbiased, and cooperative. It is important to survey supervisors and subordinates in a “360-degree” approach, since cultural problems are often a matter of perspective. Ideally, this should be anonymous for the most honest responses. SurveyMonkey and other online tools have great formats for surveying.

4)    As you review your quarterly or biannual survey, reevaluate if you need to address any issues. This could be as simple as a conduct reminder at the next meeting, or as extensive as hiring an organizational culture consultant to work on deeper problems.

Everyone Feels Heard

The simplest description of a respectful and productive culture is if all members feel they can have their ideas discussed on their own merit, not some underlying bias. If you follow these four steps, everyone will feel heard, and that will go a long way toward creating a  environment.
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