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Seven tips for making confrontation in the boardroom productive

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5th Aug 2015
Trainer Acuity Training
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Nick Williams tells the community how to take positives from potentially explosive situations.

Confrontation is something that no one really wants to deal with, but when you’re in a boardroom it’s often unavoidable. However, confrontation doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Take a constructive approach to confrontation and you can make it positively productive. Here are seven tips on how to achieve this.

Be clear

Unless you can be clear about why you are confronting someone in the boardroom, then it’s best to keep quiet. You need to know exactly what you want to say and why. If you can’t tell people what the problem is or what you need from them, then it will cause a lot of confusion and result in the confrontation taking a more negative and hostile turn.

Enter the boardroom with complete clarity and ensure you deliver your points concisely to your peers.

Do your research

There’s nothing worse than a confrontation that isn’t backed up by facts. If you are basing your points on hearsay, then nobody is going to take them seriously and you could end up damaging your reputation significantly.

Before going into the boardroom and confronting your peers, make sure that you have done your research. You can’t give a clear case without evidence to back it up. By doing your research you will also find that people will take you more seriously, meaning you are more likely to reach a positive and productive outcome together.

Listen to others

A confrontation in the boardroom cannot be productive if only one person is speaking. In order to solve the problem and find a productive resolution, two-way conversation is necessary. Make sure you take the time to listen to the other person’s point of view. Don’t interrupt them (this can cause hostility) and make sure you show that you are actively listening and considering their points.

You are much more likely to be able to find a solution to your problem, if everyone is able to have their say on the matter.

Avoid making accusations

Whilst it can be tempting to place blame on someone else, this isn’t the most constructive solution and can end up causing tension, rather than achieving anything productive.

How you phrase your points can make all the difference in the boardroom. You can turn confrontation into a constructive conversation by simply focusing on using non-accusatory language. Whilst some would say it’s just a matter of semantics, using non-accusatory language will prevent people from getting defensive and putting their guard up, so you will be able to accomplish a more positive outcome.

Don’t assume the other person will be hostile

You may feel strongly about a matter but don’t automatically assume that you will be met with a hostile response. If you go into the boardroom feeling that way, you can end up causing a problem, when in fact there isn’t really one there.

Assume that your peers will take you seriously, consider your points and work with you to find a productive solution. Try and keep a positive frame of mind when addressing others in the boardroom, as this will come across and will make others feel more positive too.

Don’t make it personal

If you are in the boardroom then you are talking business, so avoid making it personal. Confrontations in the workplace should be about work matters and work matters only. If you start getting personal, you cannot only end up offending people but also damaging your own reputation. It’s not professional to call out others, so think carefully about your language and actions in the boardroom.

If you keep things professional, you will stand a much better chance at turning the confrontation into something productive. Blaming people will only lower morale, so keep things positive and you stand a much better chance at achieving a productive outcome.

Be polite

Last but not least, remember to be polite. Rudeness won’t get you anywhere, especially in a boardroom situation. Make sure that you are not only speaking in polite tones but expressing politeness in your actions too. The more polite you are with your confrontation, the more chance you have of people respecting your opinion and addressing the matter.

If you want something positive to come out of your boardroom confrontation, then leave your rude comments at home and bring with you a constructive case that people can understand and do something about.

Conclusion

When it comes to confrontation there is certainly a right and wrong way to do things. Go in with the wrong attitude and you’ll struggle to establish a positive outcome with your peers. Keep your language, actions and attitude positive and you can turn your confrontation into something constructive, giving everyone the chance to work together productively to find a solution.

Nick Williams works for Acuity Training, who provide hands-on professional training from their two UK offices. Nick works as an assistant on a number of conflict management courses

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