Deciphering Board Dynamics
Much of the dynamics on boards begins with creating emotional connection. When board members are “securely connected”, they feel confident that each member is reliable, supportive and responsive. Many boards struggle when members distance themselves emotionally from each other. The Board/Team Dynamics Process, BDP, helps board members bridge these gaps and communicate their needs and feelings.
To understand how BDP works, we first need to consider a central tenet of emotional connection science. Namely, the fact that connection board members feel from each other has an enormous impact, both physically and emotionally. The bulk of research suggests that when people depend on each other to make the company successful. Creating a supportive and secure relationship leads people to perform better as a team, resolve challenges together, and make better decisions. In other words, we feel more secure when we are emotionally connected. Secure connection offers us a potent sense of safety cue to maintain our equilibrium in our brain when dealing with stressful issues.
To create secure connection, one must be willing to explore the emotional landscape of one’s experience and practice sharing that experience freely. And even though, some may resist the idea of creating emotional connection on boards, the results are astounding, showing growth and huge human potential.
BDP consists of three stages and nine steps. The process moves from identifying the current pattern of interaction, aligning the board with the common vision, mission and core values, and helping board members move into becoming a more engaged, responsive and involved working group.
To demonstrate the impact of BDP, here is a recent example of an astounding transformation of a board that went through the Board/Team Dynamics Process.
BDP in Action
When I started to work with this particular board, the CEO and the Chairman were very open to the idea of using the new science of emotional connection to improve engagement on their board. However, the Vice Chairman did not.
As we dove into the process, I asked the Chairman, the CEO and the Vice Chair to meet me in separate executive sessions together where we explored, as a group, each person’s emotional experiences before, during, and after each board meeting. I would then help them process their emotions and deepen each person’s awareness. This allowed the Chairman and the CEO to share their concerns, fears, and needs openly in a safe environment.
The Vice Chair, however, had a really hard time in sharing his emotions. Every time I would ask him about emotions, he would ignore the question and talk about what the strategy and objectives should be for the next board meeting.
One time, he and I got disconnected when I was pressing for him to identify his fear and he just did not want to go there. After that, he became somewhat distant and for a long while did not participate in our explorations but just observed, saying very little.
At our most recent executive session, it was different. As I went around the room with a question about each person’s emotional experience, the Vice Chairman suddenly started sharing on how he felt. He was very open in expressing his feelings on he felt and the more I validated and reflected his emotions, the more he shared.
And even though, some of what the Vice Chairman said was sad and painful, everyone in the room listened with amazement. The best part was when the Vice Chair finished, no one tried to dismiss his feelings or defend their positions.
Staying accessible, responsive and engaged when another person is sharing feelings of pain are the key elements in creating safety for the emotional connection. It allows the brain to stay emotionally balanced and feel safe in taking risks by sharing vulnerable feelings. This type of emotional presence creates bonding moments which provide validation and acceptance, sending the message that we care about each other. When people feel cared for, they feel safe and secure in the relationship.
Using the BDP, the board was able to break down the emotional blockage for the Vice Chairman to share that his emotions which allowed him to pull the CEO and the Chairman closer to him.
Two days later, the Vice Chair called me and asked if we could meet.
In our meeting he said, “Lola, I am a private person and when you ask me to talk about my emotions, you are going into my privacy.”
“You are right,” I said, “I am going into your vulnerable place and you are starting to do something that is incredibly strong. Rather than flipping into anger or shutting down and moving away, you are starting to be able to share your feelings. That takes a huge amount of strength and makes a difference for the Chairman and the CEO.”
Then, he said, “I want to share my thoughts about the process.” I took notes as he talked (posted with permission).
“What we do at our board meetings is different. We are different because of how we interact with one another, the way we engage one another that is different.
When we first started, I had difficulty understanding the process and methodology to get the board to become more engaged and involved. Having been in corporate governance for nearly 35 years, I didn’t buy into the concept of having a process to create board engagement and involvement. But that was the differentiator that brought a real value. The process created a change – Board interaction and direction.
With this process our Chairman began to come out of his shell. He learned a new way of approaching meetings and interact with his constituents like he had never done before. The process provided clarity to what this process is all about, and you helped the Board to see how it works.
Your method is not traditional. What you have done through this internal process is to motivate the Board to become more engaged and involved. And this brought a remarkable change.
Through the Board/Team Dynamics Process, the group understood what it meant to work together in a dynamic way and I began to see how we came all together. It was terrific.
We learned so much what the organization needed. It all became simple. Whereas a traditional board that practices corporate governance, asks questions about oversight and fiduciary responsibilities, we are far ahead in our approach to working together and the way we go about interaction and engagement.
What is different is the way we are different. The Board is vibrant and dynamic which gives individuals opportunities introduce and affect change.
How do I see it? I needed to see the results and I did. I saw the results. It is fascinating to see the light when you have a light switch. And when you do, it is so simple.”
As he shared his thoughts, I could not help but think to myself on how powerful the process of emotional connection really is. Coming from a person who rejected the idea from the start and then completely changing his tune was only possible through the experience of creating emotional connection.
As Franz Alexander, a Hungarian psychologist, said, “Change occurs through a corrective emotional experience.” He was right. Change did occur. It was magical.
The new science of emotional connection confirms that the main element that defines positive interactions is emotional responsiveness. It is ability to reach person emotionally, create emotional safety, and trust that you can engage with people you depend on when you need them.
Emotional connection is powerful and now, you can be the magician in using this new science of emotional connection to shape your board dynamics. The process of emotional connection enables us to pursue not just the strategy of a more satisfying board experience.