Informal ‘side conversations’ between meetings are essential for the effectiveness of boardrooms. But they can also make them dysfunctional. Here’s how to keep things on track.
If you’ve served on a board, you know the feeling: the regular meeting has ended, you have lots you still need to talk about, but the next meeting isn’t for months. Your questions can’t wait, so you start having conversations on the side. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Heidi K Gardner and Randall S Peterson say side conversations can be enormously valuable – but only if you know how to conduct them well.
Conducted properly, side conversations allow teams to work together smoothly and efficiently: to trade opinions and information, and exert influence. Conducted improperly, they can encourage political manoeuvring, marginalise members with key expertise, hamper diversity efforts and lead to poor decisions. Instead of making the team better, they can make it dysfunctional.