Shit. Here we go. I can’t believe they just left like that. I can’t believe we listened to them. How could we have made that decision? it was clearly taking us down the wrong path. We’ve strayed from our mission. How can we serve when we can’t even work together?
Serving on a board can be one of the most rewarding yet challenging missions that you choose to accept in your career. Everyone has advice on how you should prepare yourself to join a board, such as doing your due diligence and research or assessing your ability to commit, but no one talks about what to do when shit inevitably hits the fan. Why are we so afraid to talk about the scary stuff? I love awkward conversations, so here is my advice:
Lean into the discomfort:
When things get uncomfortable or “scratchy,” it likely means you are at the impetus for change. Moments of change are wonderful for shaping an organization, and is the perfect opportunity for you, as a young professional, to showcase your knowledge and skills.
Sit down, shut up, and hold on:
Listen twice as much (or even three times as much) as you talk. Learning patience and when to strategically share your knowledge is a key factor in increasing your level of influence on a board. If you are constantly a “talker,” you could be limiting the ideas from others or, even worse, your audience may miss your most important point through all the noise padding your intended message.
No one likes a know-it-all. Sure, you’re smart… and you have a few opinions on how things should be done. However, check your bias at the door and work on embracing the perspective of others. You may learn something new, or better yet, strengthen your connection to other board members while learning something new.
Most importantly, when shit goes awry, a board needs members to step up and follow through. Don’t just give ideas, but help put those ideas into action. Take initiative and get ‘er done. It’s amazing how much your actions, or lack thereof, can inspire action in others.