Good communication is the backbone of any organisation and while it is important that this runs through the entire company, board members in particular should be communicating effectively with each other and with senior managers, so that important messages can filter down the company.
If effective communication isn’t ingrained in a company, it can cause ‘communication chaos’, meaning staff are left with a lack of understanding of the business’s direction and core messages.
Historically, boards have contributed significantly to this communication chaos by remaining detached from the rest of the organisation, limiting contact with senior executives and, when they did communicate, choosing to do so in outdated and impractical ways.
However, if boards are to function more effectively, this issue must be tackled, which is why the Financial and Legal Skills Partnership has included board communication as one of its four Board Effectiveness Statements of Good Practice.
We take a closer look at some of the areas which companies need to work on if they are to establish a solid communication culture at board level.
Communicating on all levels
An effective board requires strong communication in meetings, but members must also be able to communicate effectively with a range of external stakeholders including employees, customers, regulators and the press. An effective board should have identified the most appropriate ways of communicating with such stakeholders and ensured that accountability for managing communications with each group is clear. Anybody who is regularly communicating with stakeholders should undergo appropriate training.
The role of the Chairman
While all members of the board should be strong communicators, the Chairman will set the overall tone. In particular, how the Chairman and Chief Executive communicate with one another is of paramount importance. Their relationship should be supportive, yet challenging. The Chairman should also manage the agenda and facilitate discussion between the members by creating an open, supportive and respectful atmosphere.
A clear agenda
If meetings are to run effectively, there must be a clear agenda, which includes input from every member. Attendees should be fully prepared ahead of meetings and be given a chance to read any papers or documents up for discussion in advance. While the Chairman will lead the meeting, all directors are expected to support them and play a role in ensuring that all issues are adequately debated.
Contributions from all
All board members are collectively accountable for every decision made by the board and as such it is important that everyone contributes fully to meetings and supports board decisions when they are being communicated at a later stage.
All members should be confident in putting forward their views and challenging their colleagues if they disagree.