12 emotional habits of effective board members

Improve performance by better addressing emotions in the boardroom.
12 emotional habits of effective board members
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Many directors don't know how to address emotion in the boardroom. Understanding that connection is our strongest instinctual motivator and can help you become a more effective board member. Here are 12 emotional habits effective board members share:

1. They create safety. Emotional safety is key to transparency, communication, and creativity. Effective board members thank people for sharing information and discussing difficult topics openly.

2. They create positive alliances based on authenticity, presence, and emotional responsiveness. They focus on developing long-term relationships and validate each person's concerns.

3. They take a non-judgemental stance. Board members can get disconnected when they feel judged or blamed. To prevent walls from going up, take a non-judgemental stance. Effective board members respect new ideas, even ideas that they might not agree with.

4. They remain accessible in times of stress. Effective board members reach out to fellow board members when times get rough. They talk through the stress rather than shutting down.

5. They empathise. Effective board members try to see other people's perspectives. When boards are under a great deal of stress, they are often making the most important decisions for the organisation. Stress slows cognitive thinking, and our decisions become more erratic. Empathy is the antidote to stress and calms the situation.

6. They constantly monitor engagement. Make it a rule that everyone must share their opinion on the issue at hand. This encourages board members to be more prepared and allows them to engage in the dialogue needed to integrate each other's ideas.

7. They are attuned to their own emotions. Understanding how your emotions affect your actions can improve your decision-making process.

8. They never stop exploring. Good board members are able to step back and ask, "Why am I feeling this way?" They don't blame their colleagues. Instead, they try to understand the underlying reasons for the tension.

9. They track, reflect, and question. Effective board members track what fellow directors say so that everyone feels understood and clarity isn't a problem. They question the current state to ensure that board members know that their participation and engagement matter.

10. They turn emotional reactions into positive responses. Effective board members strive to clear up frustration and miscommunication, and dive into the tension and turn it into a bonding moment.

11. They shape board interactions into positive cycles. Whenever boardroom disagreements become disrespectful, an effective board member reminds everyone that everybody in the room wants the organisation to succeed.

12. They form a secure base. They provide a judgement-free zone where they bring everyone together under the same goals.

Lola Gershfeld (, a doctor of psychology, is chief executive of Level Five Executive in Newport Beach, California. She is the author of Effective Board Dynamics Guide for CEOs and Directors.