Today, I met with the head of a large public agency (10,000 employees) and we talked about managing his Board of Directors so that they are supportive of his vision.
“You need to engage them early in the process,” I said. “Ask them questions. Enable them to own the direction.”
He gave me a quizzical look. “They don’t see eye-to-eye,” he said. “How can I do that?”
“It’s all about leverage,” I replied. “You have two Board members who want to be seen as driving the direction. Leverage their desire to be perceived as leaders.”
We talked about a strategy for doing that, for giving them a platform to articulate their visions for the organization.
Bill said: “Can you help facilitate this discussion?”
“I can, but I would prefer that you do it.” I looked at him. “You’ve led a fighter squadron into battle. Surely you can manage this Board.”
He hemmed and hawed.
“Can you envision how much more quickly you could implement your changes if the Board was fully behind them?”
Yes, he nodded.
“Can you envision these two Board members buying into your vision, once you buy into theirs?”
“Do you think your visions are incompatible, or is it only in the details of execution you disagree?”
We’re aligned overall, it’s just in the details that we have some differences.
“That’s pretty common,” I said. “So what’s the worse that could happen?”
Bill pushed back his chair from the table. “Certain Board members are loyal to certain groups,” he said. “If I’m not careful, those groups could become too powerful.”
“In my experience, power changes hands when there’s a vacuum of leadership.”
Bill nodded his head. “I see what you’re driving at. I need to do this in order to get the organization aligned.”
“Taking responsibility invariably means making a choice,” I said. “If you’ve made the choice, then we can talk about the details of how to engage them.”
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