Friday, March 2, 2007

The Power of Conflict

I recently came across excerpts from an article written by Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld in the September 2002 Harvard Business Review on “What Makes a Great Board Great”. As one who dislikes conflict I was struck by two of his points on great boards.

1. A climate of trust and candor. They share difficult information, and they can challenge one another's conclusions coherently.
2. A culture of open dissent. "Respect and trust do not imply endless affability or absence of disagreement," writes Sonnenfeld. "Rather they imply bonds among board members that are strong enough to withstand clashing viewpoints."

As nonprofit Board members we need to recognize the danger with complete unanimity all the time. A respectful culture that encourages dissent will bring the best value to the organization as people’s viewpoints are honed and sharpened.