Strategies for Making the Best Decisions as a Board of Directors

The paralysis of indecision—we’ve all been there. When you can’t decide what to have for dinner, it’s one thing, but when indecision strikes in your business, it can be disastrous.

That’s where your board of directors comes in. Not only is this group of expert advisors available to support and govern your business with strategic oversight and long-term planning while mentoring and challenging you as a leader, but you can also rely on them to make major decisions for your business.

To equip your board of directors to make the best decisions, implement a formal decision-making process. This means establishing clearly defined roles and communicating respectfully within a trusting, collaborative environment. These circumstances will position your board to make the best decisions.


Formalize Your Decision-Making Process

Your board—and therefore your organization—won’t get anywhere without a formal decision-making process. Think of it as a roadmap for decision-making. Without a path to follow, ideas and proposals swirl in endless talk. Your decision-making process must cover who needs to be involved, what information is required, and when the decision must be made.

When implementing a decision-making framework for your board, begin by clearly identifying if an issue is a board-level decision. Some topics are necessary for the board to know about, but they don’t require a decision. This allows you to eliminate unnecessary topics before they even make it to the agenda. If an issue does require a board-level decision, set up a timeline and confirm logistics. Assign individuals to gather information, distribute materials, and present data to the board. The actual decision most commonly occurs through a formal vote.


Clearly Define Roles in Decision-Making

Your board members likely have assigned roles and informal roles, both of which allow your board to carry out its formal decision-making process. Formal roles include positions like board chair, vice chair, secretary, or treasurer. These roles allow the board to assign responsibilities and move projects—and decisions—forward. Meeting facilitators are also helpful in decision-making; they take pressure off the board chair and keep meetings agendas on track.

Informal roles also impact your board’s efficiency and, therefore, its decision-making ability. Having a high-performing board requires the right mix of people with the right combination of expertise. Board members often adopt informal roles based on their expertise—the marketing expert, the technology expert, or the legal expert. Design your board’s culture to respect and defer to its members’ respective areas of expertise.


Communicate Respectfully

Clear, timely, respectful communication among board members is key to decision-making. Effective communication positions board members to solve problems by allowing them to share relevant background information, express their own viewpoints, and explore available solutions. Board members must be able to speak freely, engage in healthy debate, and raise tough questions.

Follow the rules of communication to engage in open and honest two-way communication, and encourage your board members to do the same:

  • Pay attention to nonverbal communication.
  • Focus on active listening and understanding others.
  • Respond intentionally and thoughtfully.
  • Recognize when to be brief and remain silent.


Foster Psychological Safety on Your Board

Effective decision-making requires trust, cohesion, and psychological safety. Build trust through transparency and accountability, and nurture the relationships among your board members. Make sure your board members each recognize their individual duty to contribute to building a culture of psychological safety.

If you don’t have a board that functions with the highest level of psychological safety for the board members, it’s never going to reach the level of effectiveness that your organization needs. Your board members have unique perspectives and areas of expertise, but your organization will not benefit from these gifts if board members are not comfortable to voice their opinions. You want each board member to feel comfortable and empowered to speak up, especially when dealing with sensitive topics or unpopular opinions in decision-making.


Equip Your Board to Make the Best Decisions

Whether your board of directors has been around for years or you’re currently assembling an advisory team, think about how you as a leader can empower this group to make decisions effectively. Decision-making is rarely easy, but with a formal process, clear roles, strong communication, and a trusting culture, you can set up your board for success.


Questions to Consider

  1. Do you see the value in having a board to make decisions for your organization?
  2. What is your organization’s decision-making process?
  3. How do you best facilitate decision-making? Who has what role?
  4. Do you understand how to develop psychological safety? Does your board have it?

If you’d like to discuss how a board of directors or an advisory board can help your organization, I’d love to help. Contact me to learn more about leadership advising, decision-making, and additional resources.