So much gets lost in the translation when communication isn’t clear. That’s never a good thing when it comes to board communication.
Communication is difficult enough when you’re speaking face-to-face. Prior to the year 2019, the business world had been making a gradual move in the direction of virtual communication. With the onset of the pandemic and the need for safety, boards scrambled to set up virtual communication. Now, virtual communication has become the norm, and it may well take us into the future.
As we’ve moved toward virtual communication, we’ve learned a lot of hard lessons about effective communication along the way. Virtual communication is an essential topic for board meeting agendas, and it’s certainly a new goal for boards to strive for. With that in mind, how do you develop a virtual board communication strategy that’s effective?
With the right tools and processes, along with a healthy dose of communication etiquette, your board can develop solid best practices for effective virtual board communications.
Best Practices for Effective Virtual Board Communications Processes
The same communication processes that you’ve been using for face-to-face communication don’t necessarily work as well for virtual board communication. Having recognized that, there are several simple changes you can make in your processes to improve communication.
First, create a communication schedule. Set up the expectation for board members to check board communications at the beginning of the week, the beginning of the month, or according to some other designated schedule. This process will eliminate problems with board members not checking email communications about board business on a regular basis. Be consistent with the timing and be consistent with the platform the board is communicating on.
Encourage board members to communicate actively. They should be asking questions, giving reports and goals, clarifying objectives, affirming each other’s efforts, and offering feedback on a continual basis. Make sure that everyone is clear on their roles and the board’s expectations for clear virtual communication.
During group interactions such as board meetings or committee meetings, be sure to have an agenda or action item to complete during the allotted time. Before group meetings, be sure everyone knows who is in charge, and when various individuals are expected to speak.
At the end of meetings, provide an electronic recap to ensure that everyone has the same takeaways.
It’s considered best practices for boards to recognize board members, staff members, or volunteers that have made contributions to the organization. Showing appreciation for those who have given of their time and talents to progress the organization is essential even when communicating remotely. Traditionally, you might celebrate with a meal out or present them with an award in person. If it’s not possible to meet and show appreciation in person, you can still send out a gift or gift card. If it makes sense, you could schedule an in-person celebration later in the year for all those that you want to recognize for their valued efforts.
Best Practices for Effective Virtual Board Communications Etiquette
One of the worst things your board can do is to put off communication when you can’t meet in person. By nature, we are social creatures who thrive on human connection. Due to the pandemic, people are already feeling isolated and disconnected, and that can have a negative impact on your board’s work.
To that point, a Gallup study showed that the leading cause of decreased morale, engagement, and productivity was due to a lack of social interaction. Board members that communicate on a regular basis tend to be more empathetic to each other and they’re more likely to be invested in collective success. One suggestion for how boards can better connect with one another is to ask them to log into a virtual meeting 10-15 minutes early to provide time to catch up with each other socially. Alternatively, you could set up a virtual coffee hour to help strengthen relationships, build rapport, and fortify emotional bonds.
If your board has members located in various other time zones, choose days and times that work well for everyone. Even once everyone has agreed on a time and date for a meeting, be sure to give them plenty of notice. Be mindful that everyone has a life outside of board work, and that their home and work schedules have also been disrupted due to the pandemic. When everyone has the date and time on their calendar well ahead of time, there are few excuses for not arriving on time regardless of where they are when they need to log in.
As part of your board communication strategy, encourage everyone to watch their tone when engaging in virtual communications. Typing in all caps or using too many exclamation points can be off-putting and communicate the wrong message. Encourage board members to make their points politely. Virtual board communications aren’t the place for dry humor, sarcasm, or expletives. The wrong tone can set the stage for confusion, frustration, disengagement, or even resentment.
Whoever is leading a group virtual meeting should be aware of some of the same issues that boards have in the boardroom. Be alert to people who are zoning out or monopolizing a conversation. Facilitating virtual communications requires the meeting leader to be intentionally empathetic and give everyone a little space and a little grace.
Encourage members of the board to communicate clearly and concisely, expressing their ideas in a simple, direct manner. It shows respect to the rest of the group when a speaker gets to the point quickly.
Finally, it pays to do a short debriefing with the group after virtual meetings to discuss how well their communication efforts went. Give everyone a little time to express their opinions and offer suggestions.
Best Practices for Effective Virtual Board Communication Tools
The right technology can bolster virtual board communications significantly. If you haven’t already done so, this is the perfect time to consider a BoardEffect board management system. A board portal is an all-in-one platform where you can conduct all your board business virtually. By implementing a board portal, your board won’t have to craft a variety of electronic communication tools together or worry that the tools you’re using aren’t secure.
With BoardEffect, you can send messages and files to other board members securely. The portal has a built-in calendar for managing all board business effectively all year long. State-of-the-art security means that you won’t need to hire your own IT people to keep hackers or cybercriminals at bay.
Your board portal is completely mobile, which means board members can access board agendas, board handbooks, board meeting minutes, and messages at any time, wherever they are. BoardEffect’s portal features granular permissions so board members always have access to the information they need. In the interest of security, the board administrator controls who can access various parts of the portal.
A board portal is just as effective for supporting board communications when boards are regularly meeting in person.
Best practices for virtual board communication are part of best practices for good governance. A board communication strategy should include an emphasis on the right processes, etiquette, and tools to ensure good board communication all year round, whether the board is meeting in person or not.
7 Rules of Virtual Board Engagement
This guide offers frameworks and best practices (“7 Rules”) to aid board administrators, executives and directors in their efforts toward the elusive goal of engaging and elevating the effectiveness of boards from a virtual perspective.