The Power of Conviction

The Power of Conviction

August 31st, 2009

by Ted Grossnickle

I found myself in a board of directors Retreat recently – and while there received a powerful reminder of the power of conviction.

The group of directors had spent a considerable amount of time grappling with a series of important and complex governance issues. They dealt with potential changes to the board’s make-up, to their own future as directors, to how they would be expected to work together and changes to where they would devote most of their attention. As with any board, some persons focused on strategic issues and aspects of the questions; others approached it from a more tactical or “mechanical” perspective.

There came a point – after several intense hours of discussion and debate – when the dynamic in the room became tense. Directors began to zero in on details and small points. Progress slowed or stopped and positions began to harden a bit.

Then an interesting thing happened. The institution’s president asked to speak and asked everyone to think about their work in a different light, to reconsider what they were really there for, not just that day but as board members. He went on to argue with real conviction that the purpose of the group was at a much higher level – and one that really required the group to rethink how they organized themselves.

This changed everything. I watched body language shift; board members leaned forward in their seats and they paid attention – including a few who had previously begun to show signs of losing interest. And this was no group of shrinking violets either… They are forthright and not concerned about expressing opinions or constructively disagreeing with one another.

From that moment on, the discussion was different. There was an implicit but clear sense that the president had “raised the bar” on both the importance of what they were dealing with as well as the necessity for some changes.

That president chose the right moment to weigh in and share his deeply held convictions that the group was important, but needed to rethink why they were there. What an incredible difference it made and will make in the future. That board went on to take just enough of a different view of their situation and their trusteeship to do that rethinking. In a time when leadership is critical, the willingness to lay it on the line and speak your mind is priceless – and very powerful.

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