Tips for Dealing with Board Members
When getting advice or feedback, don’t defend, explore
If you’re seeking advice or feedback from a member of your board (or someone in a similar advisory capacity), present the issue, idea, or dilemma that you want advice on. Then listen. Ask questions. Engage in conversation. But DON’T DEFEND OR REBUT.
Your goal is to get that person’s input – not explain why their input is in your opinion irrelevant, wrong or just plain stupid. I’m not saying it might not be irrelevant, wrong, or moronic – it very often is (not very often, but you get my point.) If you’re seeking someone else’s input, you want them to open up and give you their full perspective. Analyze and critique it on your own time. You should leave the meeting with an understanding of their feedback. It’s up to you to decide (later) if it’s good bad or ugly.
Instead of defending (which often sounds like this: “I tried that but . . .” or “I hear what you’re saying but . . .” or “I don’t want to do that because . . .”), explore what they’re saying. Ask questions and listen. “What do you think we’ll learn if we do what you’re suggesting?” “What would you do next if that doesn’t work?” “That sounds great – if we couldn’t do that, what could we do?”
If you wanted help moving a couch, you wouldn’t nag the person about their technique until they dropped the couch – so don’t ask for advice and then immediately criticize it. That’s rude and ineffective.
Eliminating the negative is not the same as creating the positive.
This is a bit more subtle, but just as important. Let’s say you’ve got a problem. And as a result of this problem all sorts of negative things are going on in your company. And you’ve got an idea that will fix the problem – and eliminate the negatives. So how should you sell the solution? You can either say “If we implement this solution, these problems will go away.” or “If we implement this solution, things will be better.” Trust me, the second option, when available, is the way to go. If you simply talk about eliminating problems, then people can get drawn into a debate about whether those problems are in fact problems, and whether the solution will eliminate the negative. If you talk about enhancement (making things better), people are much more receptive. Try it and see.
Bonus tip: STFU
Best way to get advice from your board members is to STFU. Stop talking and start listening. Don’t spend the limited time you have with your advisors talking – talk little, listen a lot. Nuff said.