The business world offers no other environment quite like the boardroom. The risks are very high, the rules are vague, and the directors often powerful, alpha bosses who must now work as a team of equals. Thus (although no one mentions it) the rules of board etiquette are up for grabs.
"The dynamics of the boardroom have major problems," says Cynthia Lett, of the Lett Group. "People tiptoe around straight talk." Nothing quite prepares you for the etiquette of the boardroom, but here are a few rules of engagement from folks who've been there.
Though directors should be supplied with all the background they request, they must be able to debate and judge proposals based on big ideas, not details. "You're not an expert on the subject, and you've got maybe 15 minutes to decide." Learn to probe into specific details because they're crucial -- as opposed to a desire to prove how savvy you are.
Legally, the board is a single entity, so each member is married to whatever the board approves. Use this legal idea as a litmus test for how your board decides. If an issue is divisive, but still could gain a bare majority vote, maybe you should consider putting off the proposal. A divided board is a vulnerable board -- vulnerable to bad choices, second guessing, and litigation.
Copyright © 2000 Ralph Ward's Boardroom INSIDER