The Curious Experience of Speaking to the Board
by Mark Feigal and Michael Shaun Conaway

The Curious Experience of Speaking to the Board

By Mark Feigal, Board of Trustees Member & Michael Shaun Conaway, Board of Trustees Member

mark-feigalMSConawayMichael Shaun –  When I started my board service this past spring, I was introduced to two new ideas.  The first was consensus decision making.  

Mark – Let me explain, consensus decision-making is a process used by groups seeking to generate widespread levels of participation and agreement. The process of group deliberation includes some common elements.  It is inclusive, participatory, collaborative, agreement seeking and cooperative.

Michael Shaun – In other words, when we face a decision, stay in a conversation until a consensus arises.  Most every vote I have seen on the board is unanimous because there is no hurry to vote until we find an agreement that works for everyone.  It can take longer than a majority vote but the end result is much better thought out and has real support from all of the members. 

Mark – That’s right, the board is committed to reaching unanimity.  It takes the collaborative effort of everyone to reach this goal. 

Michael Shaun – The second new idea that grows out of consensus decision-making is the idea that that the board speaks with one voice. 

Mark – Once we make a decision, we speak with one voice about that decision.  I put my opinion aside and you put your opinion aside so that when we speak about an issue, we say what the consensus decision is.  We speak with one voice no matter which member of the board you speak to.

Michael Shaun – This leads me to the title of this article:  The Curious Experience of Talking to the Board.  If you ever have reason to bring something to the board, you will come into direct contact with these two ideas. 

When you come to the board  we will quietly listen to what you have to say.  Then we will ask any questions that help us to understand what you are there to talk about.   Then one of us will reflect back to you what we heard you say and give you a moment to add anything that might be missing.  And then we thank you and wish you a good night.   We don’t say anything about what you presented, and that is a curious experience. 

Mark – We don’t say anything because there is no consensus at that moment.  After you go, then we talk about it.  When we come to some consensus, then we have one of the board members write back to you with the consensus reply.  

Michael Shaun – So it’s a slow motion conversation with discussion and consensus building going on after you have left.  It takes some time but the end result is that you get a board reply rather than a collection of opinions.