A while ago, McKinsey found that teams that are connected can increase their productivity by between 20 and 25%. Further research by ThinkTalent found that companies with effective communication strategies were 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers. More recently, Gartner found that poor communication is responsible for 70% of corporate errors.
With a board of directors who do not work in the same location for the majority of their tenure, being able to keep communication lines open between members is essential. This article explores expert tips on how to improve board of directors communication.
Directors are leaders, but when you have many leaders on one team, this can cause conflict unless handled correctly. Good communication is essential to solving these differences but can often be deprioritised in favour of concentrating on other aspects of governance.
What is meant by board communication?
Board communication refers to the sharing of information between the chair or board secretary and the board members or between board members in general. From the board induction process to following up on action points after the meeting, it covers a wide range of scenarios. Board communication can relate to everything from collaboration on projects to commenting on the agenda and the way directors converse within the board meetings.
This can happen in written or spoken form, digitally or on paper. Any interactions relating to board members working together fall into the category of board communication.
Why is effective board communication important?
It is a board’s job to work together to make decisions that add value to the company. With good communication between members, you can improve trust and collaboration, which act as a basis for positive decision-making.
Without good communication, any disagreements that arise could spiral downwards and cause major issues for the company when it should have been possible to resolve them in a positive manner.
However, there are several roadblocks to communication within boards:
|Problem||How it affects boards|
|Many strong personalities on the board||On a board with many strong personalities (which is a common occurrence, as leaders often possess a certain strength of character), some board members may not feel heard.|
|Remote working||Much of board members’ work takes place away from the boardroom. With only a limited number of opportunities to gather together per year, it is easy for conflicts to fester, and it is difficult to forge strong working relationships.|
|Email overload||If you communicate with emails between the secretary and board members, the sheer number of emails containing agendas, board papers, reports, amendments and follow-ups can overwhelm directors. This makes the effective communication of important details more challenging.|
How to improve board of directors communication
1. Gather all relevant background information
Board members need to be well-informed to make the best decisions possible for the business. This means they need to understand how the company is performing, how the industry is performing, and any future risks that they should take into account.
Being able to supply detail on the driving factors behind future developments in your sector to your board members helps them understand their role more clearly and means everyone is working from the same information when discussing strategy. In turn, this should lead to better decisions.
2. Align the board with the executive team
The flow of information between the board and your executives should be seen to be transparent.
This doesn’t mean simply repeating everything that is said between the two parties. Obviously, there are sensitivities that you must be aware of and the way you communicate information is important. Think about whether an email is appropriate, whether the secretary should talk to the relevant parties or if it requires the board chair to get involved.
You should facilitate the flow of information in a way that everyone understands what is needed for them to meet their objectives. Even if communication slows the decision-making process, everyone needs to be in full possession of the facts to make the best choices.
3. Engage your directors between meetings
Much of the hard work involved in being a board director occurs between the meetings. For example, it is important to share bad news in advance. This enables directors to arrive at the meeting with solutions in mind rather than being caught on the spot whilst the meeting is ongoing.
It is also important to seek input from board members outside of meetings, as well as sharing agendas, minutes, presentation decks and other documents. This ensures that you can gain feedback in advance, and you do not have to take up valuable meeting time discussing amendments that could have already been made.
Using a board portal like iBabs provides this capability with cloud-based collaboration from any device, anywhere. It also adds to the sense of belonging to the board, even outside of meetings.
4. Meet up outside of the boardroom
Understanding what a person is like outside of their role helps you develop a closer and more trusting bond. It is also easier to communicate with someone that you know beyond their work persona. This is why social events are important for creating better board communication.
Whether it is the CEO or chair meeting board members on a one-to-one basis or holding informal networking opportunities for directors to attend, an opportunity to get to know one another will help to break down boundaries and give all parties a better understanding of who their colleagues are as people. This also informs their stance in a board situation.
5. Establish accountability
When everyone understands what they are accountable for, the workflow is smoother, and communication is on track. For example, the secretary should be held accountable for providing the board pack and agenda in a timely manner so that board members have enough time to digest them and develop their thoughts.
Having the papers in advance also encourages collaboration between board members, which opens communication lines. A board portal, with documents stored in the cloud, helps to facilitate this.
You should also hold board members accountable for completing action points from previous meetings. iBabs provides the functionality to follow up on these actions and enables stakeholders to keep track of the progress.
6. Ensure everyone is working from the same information
The most effective communication occurs when everyone is on the same page. A common problem that boards have is a large number of back-and-forth of emails, along with endless editing, re-saving and re-sending of documents. Some directors miss the latest updates, and the board ends up working from different versions of important files.
You can use iBabs to keep your board up to speed. The documents update automatically on each device, meaning that everyone has access to the most recent amends. This creates the level playing field you need in the boardroom.
7. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate
It is difficult to gauge the amount of communication correctly, but over-communicating is often better than under-communicating. The former shows that interaction and engagement are both welcome and encouraged. The latter can leave board members feeling isolated and disengaged.
When directors feel like they are valued, they will perform their best work. If they feel like they are seen as unimportant entities, who are only needed at meeting time, it is unlikely they will perform to the best of their abilities.
How should a CEO communicate with the board?
A CEO should make time to communicate with board members between meetings as well as in the boardroom. They should always be honest and open, answering questions and finding out how they can help the directors in their work.
Who is responsible for communicating board decisions?
The company secretary will record the decisions of board members and is responsible for keeping those records. This allows for an audit trail should anything go wrong and creates a record of history for directors to understand the process behind the decisions made.
How do you effectively chair a meeting?
The chair should actively listen to the discussions within the meeting and treat directors with impartiality. Ensuring everyone is heard, rather than just those with the biggest personalities, is another element of effectively chairing a meeting.
Communication between directors is key to the smooth running of the board and its ability to make valuable and effective decisions. It can be difficult to facilitate these interactions, but it is possible when the chair, secretary and board members work together.
To improve board of directors communication in your organisation, you can use a board portal that connects your directors between meetings as well as in the boardroom. iBabs allows for real-time collaboration, keeps everyone up-to-date with the latest version of documents and helps you follow up on action points.
Request a free demo for your organisation today to see how you can improve board communication and benefit your business.