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Board Room Battles: Recognize, Address, and Diffuse

In this video we’ll talk about battle:

What they are? And how to recognize, address, and diffuse them.


“Battle. The very word brings to mind negative feelings. Frustration, struggle, contest, anger an opposition are just a few negative side effects of battle.” Business Not Battle Pg 21

There is also a militant image that many may envision. Conflict occurs between two people or groups. Nonprofit organizations are not protected from these battles, and might even find them more frequent. Each organization has a mission, a job to do, a gap to fill. Battles prevent success.

My name is Elise with Woodworth Enterprises and author of the best-selling book Business Not Battle for Nonprofit Boards. It describes the mindset effective board members use to ignite real impact. What I’ve found, is that battles commonly occur in the board room. They persist there, because they are ignored in hopes they will disappear. Seldom, if ever, does that actually work.

So, let’s talk about how to recognize battles. The feelings I mentioned earlier, like anger and opposition, are the symptoms of battle.

Here are three common places they crop up.

One is in disagreement or differing opinions. This is the easiest place for conflict to occur. Pick any topic and there will be more than one way to look at it. These different opinions can easily lead to misunderstanding and poor communication which raise stress levels and tensions.

Another place battle is commonly found is in any change. Change is stressful for people in general. New staff, change in leadership or operations, new services or offerings. These new things can be exciting and seem risky. They easily cause disagreements and frustrations.

A third-place battles occur is around finances. Motivations for and discussions around funding, spending, and growth are very important and often tense.

Once identified, address the battle- let me start by saying, telling someone to shut up, does nothing to help the situation. Soft, non-accusatory, language is paramount here. Recognize that concerns and opinions of all parties are valid. Do your best to summarize the battle in a way that is about an issue, not a person or party. Staying focused on the mission is an easy way to help bring about neutral discussion.

Diffusing a battle. The number one tool to use when diffusing a battle, is thoughtful questions. Asking thoughtful questions requires you to approach a situation with more intention than emotion. These questions are thought provoking, open-ended, and serve to deepen understanding. Asking and listening, leads to thoughtful discussion, which leads to the best possible outcome for your organization.

So, the next time you start to feel frustration and conflict starting to take over a meeting, recognize it is a battle, a conflict, that you can address by staying mission focused, and diffuse by asking thoughtful questions. You are after all in Business, Not Battle.


Do you feel like your board is in a battle right now? I welcome the opportunity to hear about it and help you apply these steps to your situation. Book a free Connecting Conversation today. I look forward to chatting with you.

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