Disagreement is a natural part of the boardroom process. In fact, it’s an integral element in decision-making. Diversity of thought helps board members analyze their options from varying angles, which ultimately helps them make better choices as a collective. From time to time, however, you may find yourself as the odd man out. First and foremost, don’t worry; it’s OK to take an unpopular stand, but there is a more effective way to way to do it. Here are our suggestions:
- Don’t go silent.
For many directors who realize they’ve adopted an unpopular stance, the choice to go silent makes the most sense. While you may believe that you’re being a better group member by bowing out of discussion, you could actually be doing a disservice to your board. Keep in mind that your opinion has equal value in the board setting, and you may be looking at a problem from a truly unique angle that others need to hear.
- Don’t get antagonistic.
Speak up, but don’t lash out. For some directors, having an unpopular opinion can make them feel cornered or disrespected. Keep in mind that every single board member has the freedom to dissent, but that dissent should be expressed with as much deference as is possible.
- Be thorough.
If you know you’re going to disagree on a topic and can prepare ahead of time, try to develop some statistical or visual aids that might be able to help others understand how you came to your personal conclusion. Remember that other board members can’t read your mind, so they may need you to walk them through your thought process.
- Be gracious.
Keep in mind that you won’t always be the board member with the unpopular opinion. In fact, you may find yourself back in the majority on the very next topic. Even if the board ultimately decides to go against your recommendation on one issue, it doesn’t mean that your opinion holds any less value. Be gracious to your fellow board members and thank them for taking the time to try to understand your position.