I’m here to start an argument. There. I said it. And I mean it.
I’d like to see more arguing among credit union board members. I’m seeing a bit too much harmony for my taste. And no, this isn’t about schadenfreude—taking pleasure at someone else’s misfortune—no matter how much I like to say that word.
This is about board engagement and avoiding complacency. In general, I’m seeing and hearing about too much complacency.
Don’t get me wrong. Harmony on a board of directors is a good thing, and should be fostered and cultivated.
But if there are only unanimous votes, too much harmony, too much Kumbaya… that’s a red flag for me. It usually means there isn’t enough thought going into the discussions and material at hand.
It is easy to slide into a groove in the boardroom, to vote “aye” along with everyone else when a meeting is running long. But the board’s job is to represent the membership, which requires constant vigilance and constant questioning.
A good, civil, thoughtful argument will shake awake the brain and sharpen your senses. It will spark engagement.
Some boards have a natural devil’s advocate. Others look to assign that task on a rotating basis just to keep everyone on their toes. Depending on your culture, this approach can work. It can also come across as stilted and artificial—not genuine.
Boards function most effectively when directors have done their homework and have thought carefully about strategic items on the agenda. This leads to appropriate questions that ignite healthy debate.
You can’t just show up all of a sudden, after months of harmony, with your bad, new arguing self at the next meeting and start ranting like a lunatic without causing some concern. And upsetting the apple cart just for the sake of disruption isn’t effective, either.
So, how do you start to change your culture in a productive way if there is not enough “arguing” and too much harmony?
Try these incremental approaches:
You can change the tone at the top without being confrontational if you go about it thoughtfully. Before you know it, you will be arguing with the best of them—all with the best interests of members at heart.