CONFLICT IN BOARD MEETINGS
Marlene Dau

When healthy dialog turns into personal insults, innuendo, gossip and disruptive arguments, board meetings can get off message and contentious.  Left unabated, the board fractures, no one is satisfied and the community suffers.  How can a board deal with a disagreeable board member?  Each situation is unique, so specific approaches will differ.  However, there are a few helpful tactics boards can use.

Embrace discord – Don’t dismiss discord, listen to alternate opinions.  For example, when a candidate runs for the board on an overtly negative platform, communicate actively and try to get at the root of the member’s dissatisfaction.  Ask questions, even when you do not think you will like the answer.  There may be opportunities to build bridges.

Be Positive – It’s difficult to disagree with someone who is consistently positive.  Give others the benefit of the doubt, and assume they all are working for the good of the community.  At the same time, do not debate with those who engage in argument for sport.  Focus on the principles on which all board members agree and work toward them.

Separate the Messenger from the Message – Dissident opinions may have value or contain nuggets of truth.  Even if a person communicates in the wrong way, it does not mean the message is wrong.  Look at alternative policies or procedures and play out the “what-ifs”.  Allow the process to point out whether that future would be better.

Always strive to do the right thing – remembering that you serve for the benefit of all members.  Be principle based, not ego based, especially when others are not.  When necessary, remind others that policies, decisions, and actions should be in harmony with the goals and vision of the community.  Do not allow yourself to be drawn into personal arguments or put on the defensive.

Applying these principles allows leaders to find the best in themselves and others.  Boards that stay focused on the bigger picture, stand squarely on principle, and remain positive take the wind out of the sails of a rogue board member.