Whenever I hear a board member say how like-minded the board is and how everyone agrees with each other, I get worried! Good board governance requires asking hard or unpopular questions, and some healthy dialogue that pushes critical thinking.
In the Anabaptist tradition, we value mutual accountability; understanding that Jesus is our model for how to live and be in community. But Jesus was not a wallflower! He spoke up, he questioned, and he even got angry. He clearly did not accept the status quo and pushed against the cultural norms of the time.
As Anabaptists, I think we can have a harder time expressing disagreement – we want to be good peacemakers! There are very healthy and good ways to offer differing opinions and to question each other in a non-threatening way.
If your board culture is one of agreement and like-mindedness; it may be wise for the Chair to begin the practice of asking questions such as, is there something we are missing in our conversation? or they may deliberately offer an opposing view for the board to consider and ask for discussion. There are many ways that a board can practice looking at a decision or action item from opposing viewpoints to get outside of a “group think” mentality. New and different ideas assist the board in reaching an objective and balanced decision.
Consensus-building and healthy debate are ways to improve governance and make better decisions. Remember, once a decision is made, the board speaks with one voice. And individual board members present this united front to the outside world.
I would love to hear how your board is addressing or has addressed healthy conflict. Email me your stories and experiences. If you would like assistance or support in developing a culture of healthy disagreement, please reach out to me for assistance, at Karen@mhsonline.org.