Dynamics or self-dynamics in the meeting room? Expectations of board members are high. Among other things, they are expected to deal with their tasks and not so much with themselves. Paradoxically, the more they deal explicitly with themselves, the better this is.
In boards of directors, decisions with long-term effects are made. It is essential to balance entrepreneurial, ethical, moral, political and social aspects, to strive for sustainability, even in the short-term pressure for profitability, to maintain a balance between active expression of opinion and the distance that the balance of power requires, etc. All this places high demands on the personal integrity and maturity of the Board members and on their ability to work as a team at the highest level.
This is highly demanding, especially in critical situations where the stakes are high and the pressure is intense to set the right course. Such situations are characterized by a high level of stress and pronounced emotional strain, and here old and well-established patterns of thought and behavior tend to be activated, which can massively change the dynamics in the boardroom, often to the surprise of all involved, because mechanisms that remain hidden in normal everyday life become apparent. It is not uncommon for a team to be taken by surprise by such a change of atmosphere and to find itself in an overstrained situation in which its view of the big picture is blurred.
But it is precisely in such decisive meetings that a clear view is needed. In critical situations, teams that have not reflected on how they function in quieter times will be at the mercy of their ingrained behavior patterns under pressure, and then their self-dynamics instead of dynamics will prevail. In the aftermath of economic disasters, the question is repeatedly asked how it could happen that highly intelligent people could act so blindly in a decisive situation, even though the necessary information for a good decision was available. The answer lies in what is known as "Boardroom Dynamics". The special atmosphere of such situations is time and again the subject of films such as "Thirteen Days", where the dynamics of decision-making during the Cuban Missile Crisis are captivatingly portrayed.
Such extreme situations cannot be simulated; what remains is to be prepared for them in the best possible way. This includes reflecting on one's own way of working, especially at the level of team dynamics. Board members need a mature personality with a high awareness of their behavioral tendencies under pressure, and as a board they need an awareness of how to deal with conflicts, fuzzy information, diversity, hierarchy and other important aspects of teamwork. In addition, it can be helpful to have an external coach in the room who has the trust of the committee, who keeps his or her distance in terms of content, and who is exclusively concerned with ensuring that the team functions well.
It’s a tricky thing with self-dynamics: wanting to get it under control on your own is like a Münchhausen act. This requires a counterpart who is able to hold up a mirror in which a team can recognize itself. Research clearly shows that there is no chance of suppressing the emotion factor, even if you go "let's all remain completely rational".
Conclusion: You can't get rid of psychological dynamics. But you can at least choose whether you encounter them blindly or seeing, according to the motto: "you can't stop the wave, but you can learn to surf".
About the author:
Tibor Koromzay, lic.phil., is a psychologist and has 13 years of experience as a member of management in the machinery industry. As a freelance consultant and coach, he focuses on leadership, collaboration, change processes and personal growth. He places particular emphasis on the quality of internal cooperation in teams and organizations. He specifically offers coaching for board members.
www.tiborkoromzay.ch / www.trueleadership.ch