Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Board Relations: Tips for Conversations in Difficult Situations

As many of you already know Dr. Jordan and I spend many hours working with boards and administrative teams across the state.  We are always dealing with great people that want to impact their district and their communities while serving students.  We often find boards working through difficult situations trying to find ways to communicate in open and honest conversation.  In many cases emotional or “hot button” issues come up around the board table and create a potential for disagreement and disappointment.

The following tips might be helpful for board members to review in preparation for difficult discussions when hot topics are looming on the agenda. 

  •  Promote a Spirit of Inquiry – Inquiring and developing a clear understanding of the beliefs of others before expressing and promoting one’s own ideas. This norm is important to a beneficial discussion within the group.

  •  Pause – Stop and wait before responding or inquiring about expressed ideas. This norm promotes thoughtful thinking and may assist with the dialogue and problem-solving process.

  •  Paraphrase – Use good listening skills and summarize comments made by others within the group to acknowledge and/or clarify a member’s point of view or idea.

  • Probe – Ask for more information during a group discussion by using open-ended questions like: “Tell me more about your perception…” or “I’d like to hear more about…” or “Can you clarify the point that you made about…” Using this technique may give the group a deeper understanding about a topic or a problem and assist with decision-making.

  •  Put Ideas on the Table – Ideas are the core of meaningful dialogue within a group. Clearly label your presentation of a possible idea or solution to a problem by saying: “One idea that I have is…” or “Here is a possible solution…”

  •  Pay Attention to Self and Others – Make an effort to be aware of what you are saying and how you are behaving within the group interactions. Also, be aware of how others are behaving and responding to the group discussions.

  •  Presume Positive Intentions – Assume that the intentions of others are positive as the group interacts within discussions and problem solving activities. Use positive language and interact with others in a respectful manner.
An old saying often heard:  “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”   Taking the time to prepare might make a big difference for everyone as we approach tough topics, maybe the board can create enough luck to turn obstacles in to opportunities.

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