Handling Conflict in the Boardroom

Handling Conflict in the Boardroom

Conflict in the boardroom is a necessary and vital element to the growth of any business.  A business without conflict is in very dangerous territory as it means that no new decisions are being made, no change is taking place so consequently no growth – and to put it bluntly anything that isn’t moving forward is actually moving backwards.

The fact is, conflict can be viewed either in a negative or positive way depending on how it’s handled.  Undoubtedly, most reading this will have witnessed, been part of or are currently in a situation where battle lines have been drawn; things have got personal and spiralled out of control; the boardroom – once a place where uncomfortable but necessary discussion took place for the greater good and growth of the company has turned into a hostile, toxic and bitter environment where there are no winners.

The great thing about us humans is we are all unique so it’s hardly surprising that when we come together, regardless of the relationship, with all our different personalities, skills and interests, conflict naturally arises.  That conflict can either destroy a relationship or enhance depending on the conditions and attitudes of the people involved.

The key to effectively managing a boardroom and frankly the only way of turning potentially destructive conflict into constructive is by creating an environment and culture where mutual respect and trust exist.

For mutual trust each member has to know that they share the same vision and have the same goals, yes of course there will be disagreements around how they move towards reaching their goals and realising the vision but the key is they must share the same interest.   Without it each individual will be operating purely out of self-interest and working for the “greater good” goes out the window. When there is no trust, there is no give or take and consequently the situation ends up in deadlock.

Respect is all about knowing your opinions and thoughts are valued and the key ingredient is that we genuinely feel we are being heard.  When we know our views have been taken seriously it allows us to reciprocate. Naturally we won’t agree on everything and we will all come from different viewpoints but where all participants feel there is respect and trust we can much easily arrive at the same conclusion by listening to and learning from each other.

There is a lot of commentary out there stating the key to preventing conflict is to have your processes and terms clearly laid out from the outset in a shareholder’s agreement thus clarifying expectations and, of course, this is vitally important.  However, this won’t prevent conflict – if the boardroom is devoid of trust and respect then the most well-constructed, legally water tight shareholders agreement won’t really help.

So the question to business owner’s out there is “Are you fostering an environment where conflict can thrive?”  Helping boards navigate through their differences is a key part of what we do –  so please do drop us line if this issue or anything else is holding your business back and I’ll be in contact