Executive Director ~ Regina@nonprofnetwork.org
It was one of those board meetings—the kind that makes you question if you are the right person for the job, if you have the stamina to continue, if anyone in the room has even been listening for the past 6 months to anything you’ve said and if working at a “for profit” is an option.
You know—one of the those meetings.
I think all Executive Directors experience one of these meetings. They have happened to me. And even though they don’t happen frequently, they do happen. And they create an indelible memory.
So what do you do the day after? How do you recover your momentum?
Here are five steps that can help get you back on track after a bad board meeting.
Step 1: Seek Perspective.
Reach out to a trusted peer. It helps to debrief with a mentor and friend. Feel free to do this over a glass of wine a craft beer or an ice cream sundae. Vent, but also listen for the root causes for this bad meeting. Sometimes, reflecting with a peer who can ask good questions will reveal something that could have been done to prevent it, other times not. Remind yourself of all the things you love about your job—decisions made in the heat of the moment are rarely the best.
Step 2: Go Back to Your Roots.
Consider all the things you do that have made you successful, all the best practices and pearls of wisdom that got you here. Often, when I am coaching a frustrated ED, I ask them what they have done in the past to ensure board meetings go well and they realize that they have forgotten good habits.
Step 3: Review with Eyewitnesses.
Reach out to your board members for support. They were there—they saw it happen. Start with your Board Chair. Review the events, ask for feedback, ask for suggestions. Make a plan.
Step 4: Acknowledge and Accept Roles
Have an honest, open conversation with the key players about your experience—and theirs. Be willing to accept responsibility and the role you played, but also be willing to be tactfully and compassionately honest about their role. This needs to be a healthy conversation—use all of your crucial conversation skills (use “I” statements instead of “you” statements that can feel accusatory, focus on information that is data-driven, presume positive intent of the other party, refrain from incendiary language, and provide solutions).
Step 5: Call Out the Elephant.
Don’t sweep it under the rug. At your next board meeting, start by saying, “We had a rough meeting last month. I’d like to re-frame the conversation, share the steps I and some of the board members have taken in the past month, and let you all know that where we are today.” Everyone experienced the same meeting on different levels—ignoring the reality that an uncomfortable or unproductive conversation has occurred breeds resentment and negative conflict. Addressing it directly can help the whole team be better and stronger.
Use the opportunity to illustrate how we recover from a bad day, that we all take ownership and that we can all forgive and be a better team.
Find yourself reeling from a tense meeting? We can coach you through the steps and help you equip yourself to navigate the conflict like a pro. Call today to set up a conversation with a member of our capacity building team.
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