This week I want to talk about UNDERSTANDING and ACCEPTANCE of others’ opinions. I am not suggesting that you abandon your point of view, but rather that you understand, accept, and respect that other people have their own unique perspective too. In fact, I want to encourage you to adopt the philosophy that differing opinions are something to be treasured, valued, and encouraged.
I know that this can often be hard when you are passionate about your point of view, but you must try to let your peers express their opinions, no matter how different they may seem from yours. I can relate to this personally because I am so passionate about the work that I do that I often allow my emotions to take over and block out others’ opinions which are also equally very important to the mission of the agency.
Spirited debate is healthy because it is a way to ensure that decisions are being made through the evaluation of ALL the information available to help make that decision. However, it becomes unhealthy for an organization when the emotions are directed at a person rather than an issue. This type of private wrangling can divert the focus away from the mission. The chair should be very careful to look for signs that the discussion may be getting out of hand and take the proper steps to regain control. Improper language and verbal insults should be stopped immediately. Disagreeing with someone’s comments is perfectly normal, but inappropriate behavior should not be accepted.
Lastly, I have never experienced this, but racist and other comments, intolerance of others’ personal convictions, and impugning the motives of others is also unacceptable. Whether the comments are intentional or out of ignorance they should be addressed immediately and the board, at this point, may want to consider diversity training.
Here are some suggested tips on keeping the meetings civil:
1. Arrive on time
2. Come prepared
3. Know the ground rules of the meeting
4. Don’t be judgmental
5. Talk about issues, not people
6. Allow other people to speak too
7. Ask questions
8. Talk about issues at the meeting not in the parking lot after
9. Disclose any conflict of interest
Remember these tips and be respectful of others and you will become a valuable resource for a nonprofit organization in need of your expertise. Please share with me your thoughts on boardroom civility?