Have you ever returned home or back to the office from a board meeting and asked yourself, “Why did I say that?”
Me too. In fact, it happened a couple of weeks ago and it wasn’t the first time. But the frequency has gone down considerably since I’ve discovered and put to good use the acronym W.A.I.T. (Why Am I Talking?).
As we’ve noted in earlier blog posts, the art of asking questions includes waiting for the right time to contribute. And contribute you will with a timely, relevant question that has the potential to influence the discussion toward a successful outcome.
Those who are known to their peers as savvy directors seem to have their listening skills on high alert and their mouths figuratively fastened with Velcro. They break down barriers and encourage dialogue with good follow-up questions. I’ve seen this time and time again and admired how the technique works to influence the discussion.
The savvy director doesn’t feel the need to speak on every topic because, having done their prep work ahead of time, they have some good questions ready to go for later in the agenda when they know they can have an impact. They W.A.I.T. to contribute when it matters most and is most relevant.
Another scenario - just when the savvy director has the urge to say something in reaction to the person speaking, the W.A.I.T. acronym pops into their head and they pause briefly. They may still choose to speak but they’ll know it’s because they can add value to the discussion.
Let’s play this out. You’ve been actively listening to the board discussion and reflecting on what you have heard. When you signal the board chair that you would like to contribute to the discussion, chances are you’ll be acknowledged quickly, because a good chair wants to get everyone involved and you have been doing a lot of good listening.
Conversely, I can recall board situations when I had a good point to make or question to ask, but the chair did not bring me into the discussion because I had made numerous contributions earlier in the meeting. Some of those earlier comments were okay but they generally had little impact. When I did have something directly on point to contribute later, I did not get the chance until the discussion was pretty much concluded.
Scott Baldwin is a certified corporate director (ICD.D) and co-founder of DirectorPrep.com – an online hub with hundreds of guideline questions and resources to help prepare for your next board meeting.