|October - November 2012
There is a lot of talk about how boards need to become generative boards. In reality, what this means is a board that makes time to have conversations about what is most important to the organization and the board's governance of it.
Typically generative conversations focus on those elements of organizational life that relate to the acheivement of mission, outcomes, values and organizational priorities. I often call these elements an organization's Strategic Touchstone or more generically its foundational statements.
Generative conversations are in fact the engagement of one another in dialog about what is important to a group or organization. It is about individuals working together to create common understanding and an aligned voice about how to proceed with what has been learned together.
Generative conversations require space and time to take place as well as an environment of trust. To be effective such conversations call on individuals to refrain from our natural tendency to quickly offer opposing or resistant positions and in some or many cases suspend their own certainty in order to truly understand the other perspective.
A generative board makes time and space for such conversations, but as well nurtures among its members the ability to have a generative style of communicating as a fundamental element of board dynamics.
A person who commits to a generative style makes effort to learn how to interact with issues and people through ensuring the right questions are being posed before jumping to the answer stage of things.
A Board that commits to a generative style ensures that there is ongoing learning and orientation (to new members) about generative conversations.
To assist you or your Board in its quest to learn more about how to have generative conversations and to work together in a generative style, I offer some guidelines.
BOARD GOVERNANCE WORKSHOPS
Work together to create and sustain trust. Trust is built and nurtured by giving others the benefit of the doubt, by assuming others are doing their best to understand and engage in honest, authentic ways. It also means each individual is transparent about their interests, opinions, and agendas.
Agree on the purpose or goal of the conversation. Is it to understand collectively, explore options, challenge assumptions, lead to a decision?
Create a safe environment for diverse perspectives. It is given that people don’t always agree on things. The purpose of generative conversations includes understanding other points of view, even those diametrically opposed to your own. Often authentic dialog and analysis of opposing perspectives leads to a new and better one.
Exemplify what you want from others. The golden rule actually does work.
When there are barriers to conversation try to fix yourself first before trying to solve others. More often than not barriers to effective dialog are not sourced in just one person.
Don’t just let conversations end without asking yourselves “what’s next?” Is more conversation needed? Do we need to make some kind of decision?
Generative conversations are often about change. They are about how to figure out what should be done, how something can improve, what new strategy or practice should be designed or implemented. In other words generative conversations often challenge the status quo. Don’t just be okay with that. Welcome it when it happens.
Mark Holmgren provides facilitation and consulting services to help Boards become more effective in their governance and their relationships with executive staff. For more info, call Mark at 780.299.0780 or email to email@example.com
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WHAT OTHERS SAY
Mark has so many remarkable talents. His warmth, genuineness, humour and curiosity are what stands out for me. These qualities are very apparent in his work with organizations and facilitating workshops.
Mark has a deep understanding, based on years of experience, of social change, community development, management practices and community leadership.
He is extremely innovative, creating learning experiences for organizations and community leaders so they can respond more effectively to challenges facing their constituents.
-Brent MacKinnon, Social Media Tools