Written by Maria Shishkova, Global Board Services Practice Member AIMS International

The relationship dynamic amongst board members may predetermine the fate of the organisation. This is a conclusion that has inevitably been drawn from our work with numerous companies locally and abroad over the last 25 years.

Several trends can be identified in boards and senior management teams that are functioning ineffectively:

  • If board members do not know how to air their opinions so as to demonstrate their different view-points without undermining relationships, they may fall into a state of lethargic apathy and agree to whatever is offered to them by the President or CEO. In such cases, the urge to remain (seemingly) amicable gains the upper hand and may stifle innovative and alternative thinking.
  • Lack of trust among senior leaders is a common cause for fueling intrigues and hidden agendas in the organisation. Some of the immediate consequences are selective sharing of information, entering into private alliances and deploying troops for both secret and open battles.
  • Aggressive and deliberately challenging behavior is thinly disguised as “we are frank and forthright here”. This approach can turn the clock of human progress backwards and set its arrows to point only to “open struggle for supremacy” and “overly self-centeredness.”
  • The disintegration of a healthy corporate culture is still in its infancy. Today, when organisations compete for the loyalty and commitment of their most valuable employees, company culture proves to be the invisible glue that holds the best people together. Regardless of the efforts that the leaders at the lower structural levels put in, if the senior leadership lives by a different standard, the so-called corporate hypocrisy could easily be discerned. Sadly, the more organisations invest in creating ethical standards of behaviour and building a spirit of unity, the more skepticism is generated that ultimately turns into sarcasm.

We can all think of at least one company whose top management does not boast the best dynamics and yet reports profits. The question in this case is whether the company is profitable because of, or despite of its Board. If missed opportunities are taken into account and favourable market torrents are eliminated – how would that affect the bottom line?

Undoubtedly, there are solutions that give the board a chance to lead the organisation with integrity. Let us be honest – these solutions are neither a panacea, nor a miraculous vaccine that you receive once to build up immunity for a lifetime. Rather, they can be compared to immune-boosting agents that need to be applied regularly in order to exert a powerful effect on your health.

Many of our clients have managed to avoid the hidden pitfalls that await leaders. They invest in improving self-awareness, embracing vulnerability, building a team charter and tracing the aspired culture, and most certainly, they firmly adhere to agreed principles. Board members are being regularly audited to determine whether the competencies they demonstrate correspond to the needs of the organisation.

Are they honestly focusing on developing the skills they lack? Do they attract new members to complement the team profile effectively?

To quote Hippocrates: “If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.” The same is deemed relevant to the organisational health of senior management.

Written by Maria Shishkova, Global Board Services Practice Member AIMS International