What happens when you place some really stellar local business people, people who are very accomplished and very important to your community, in a room together and ask them to lead the entire business community?
Sometimes magic happens. Sometimes conflict occurs.
The very knowledge, experience, and aptitude that makes these people incredible leaders also sometimes comes with big egos. You probably have a lot of Type As and people used to leading. With all these alphas in the room, there’s bound to be trouble on occasion.
When you have two (or more) chamber board members who just can’t get along what do you do?
Tips on Handling Chamber Board Members and Their Conflicts
There are a lot of reasons people don’t get along but some of the most common aren’t things you can necessarily help with short of having a degree in conflict resolution or therapy. You’ll never be able to get two people to like each other, forgive one another for a past wrong, give up alpha tendencies, or any of those types of personality problems.
You can, however, help with problems that arise due to the following reasons:
They don’t understand their role as chamber board members. Sometimes conflict stems from someone overstepping a boundary or not carrying their weight. When this happens other members may assume the person is a jerk or lazy, but if the board member doesn’t understand the expectations, they may be doing too much (overstep) or too little. Ensure that every board member, experienced or otherwise, understands the expectations.
After expectations have been clearly communicated, you can help smooth things over between the parties.
They need more information. Sometimes conflicts arise because one party has become involved without having the full story. Leaders are passionate people who believe in action. Sometimes they act before they think. Ensuring all parties have the necessary information they need from the chamber may help calm things down.
Many other causes of conflict are personal and it’s often best to stay out of personal issues between adults. However, there are some things you can insist upon:
- Their actions and interests shouldn’t affect their performance as a board member. If it does, they may be asked to step down.
- Bullying and talking down to one another will not be tolerated.
- Good communication rarely occurs when emotional. Try to help them communicate by finding the source of the disconnect or conflict. Don’t stop at a person because of a label (such as they’re a trouble maker). Get beyond it to the source of the misunderstanding.
- Engagement is necessary in a board member. Is this issue arising because they care deeply about their role and want what’s best or because they’ve already checked out and are just looking for a fight?
Conflict between board members can suck the marrow out of your chamber, especially if it escalates outside of the people involved. Yet many chambers react too slowly because they hope it will work itself out. Work to understand the conflict and speak to the people involved. If you can’t help them come to a resolution, or understanding (agree to disagree), in an extreme case you may need to look at removal. This possibility will be governed by your by-laws. If you can’t remove them, consider isolation. While you can’t limit their rights as a board member, you can show them how nicely everyone else is playing together.
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