Communication is one of the main reasons why boards work effectively or have performance problems. If nonprofit leaders want to improve their board performance, they must start by improving their communication skills. A study examining the importance of communication in board performance has found that poor communication leads to participants feeling cheated, unheard, and disrespected. In this article, we’ll look at tips to help improve your board’s level of communication.
Reasons for poor communication
Communication within the board, like communication in any team, is very subtle, where people react to any movement, word, or look while concluding. The main mistakes you can make when communicating with the board are:
- Break trust – Failure to maintain communication can cause board members to stop trusting you. As a result, it will be difficult for them to work with you in this case
- Quantitative vs. qualitative – even if your meetings are lively, that doesn’t mean they are conducive to a positive outcome. If you don’t come to any common solutions, you should reconsider your communication style with your colleagues
Top tips from professional communicators
No book is devoted to the mastery of communication. However, of all the possible advice from professionals, there are two main principles:
- Listen to what has not been saying
Think about why the person didn’t mention a topic in the conversation or didn’t ask a logical-sequential question. Why does the person shy away from questions? Silence is an important indicator of a person’s feelings and motives.
- Listen clearly. Ask questions that would help draw the right conclusions and make an informed decision
The very first communication breakdown can occur as early as the interview with a potential board member, such as when you omit details of responsibilities to get the person to accept the position. Of course, when people encounter surprises, they have every right to feel cheated. Nevertheless, first impressions are very important, and so you, your secretary, and other staff should take care to inform the board in detail about everything they need to know.
Actions: a step-by-step guide
Below we provide six steps to help you get things right and improve communication with your board members:
- Don’t hide anything during the hiring process-no need to assume that board members will quietly accept any surprises they encounter in the process
- People perceive information differently- People prefer to work with spreadsheets and charts, while others like pictures and people’s stories. Give people choices to make them feel more comfortable, such as offering to send electronic or paper versions of documents
- Plan to inform your staff – schedule time so that your colleagues have time to process the information. This will show board members that you respect them and are sensitive to their other responsibilities
- Allow time for face-to-face interactions – no contact is as effective as face-to-face interactions, either virtually or from a distance
- Remember psychological factors and physical influences on people -as mentioned above, people intuitively notice your body language, gestures, tone of voice, and looks. The same works in reverse; you can also pay more attention to these factors and conclude. Remember that character, age, and ethnicity also affect how people perceive information, so an individualized approach, in this case, would be the best solution
- Listen carefully – this is the last but not the least advice. Board members need to feel heard and that their opinions are listened to and respected. Please acknowledge that you were listening, making it clear that what was said was understood and appreciated.