Improve Communication to Improve Board Performance


In my work to understand frustration associated with board engagement, I have found that poor communication is a top contributor to board members’ not performing as expected.

According to board members participating in my research, lack of good communication often creates many of the issues affecting board and organization success.

Think of all of the interactions you have with board members involving some form of communication. Are they contributing to positive performance outcomes or unintentionally adding to the frustration of expectations not being met?

Obviously good communication is the foundation of successful relationships; failure to communicate successfully both undermines relationship building and diminishes credibility. Is it reasonable to expect board members to work cooperatively with someone they don’t feel a positive relationship with or whose reliability is questioned?

Furthermore, it’s not just communicating that’s important; it’s communicating effectively that makes a difference. And we’re talking about quality here, not quantity.

Reading What More Can I Say? by communication expert Dianna Booher helped me appreciate the many fundamentals that go into being a successful communicator.

Nonprofit leaders who want to be better communicators can employ two important tips from Dianna.

Her top tip for improving communication is, “Listen for what’s NOT said in a conversation or document.

“Why did the person NOT mention a particular topic? Why did the person NOT ask the next logical question? Why did the person skirt an issue when it would have been typical and reasonable to discuss the topic? Their silence speaks volumes. Probe for under-the-surface information, feelings, or motivations to fully understand a situation.”

Dianna’s second tip comes from the big communication mistake of “failing to listen discriminately.” She suggests, “probing with questions to help draw conclusions about what you hear so you can make sound decisions.”
Initiate improvement by evaluating how communication with your board could be better. Ask board members for their suggestions.

When interacting with others, pay attention to your body language, tone of voice, and choice of words. When they answer, pay attention to their body language, tone of voice, and choice of words, all of which communicate what they are thinking. Remember, individual personality differences directly relate to how your message is interpreted.

If you want to improve your board’s performance, be mindful of:

  • Your method of delivery, including timing
  • The quality of your communication rather than the quantity
  • What your board members are not saying and asking rather than just what they are saying and asking
  • Listening very discriminatingly to what they are saying
  • Making the improvement of communication skills an ongoing process

Your rewards will be worth the effort. Being a good communicator will improve your leadership effectiveness, enhance relationships with board members, and increase overall performance of your board–and your organization.
Want to read more about how to be a better communicator? These articles will help:



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