Suzanne Doyle-Morris writes:
As I discussed in my book, Beyond the Boys’ Club, savvy professional women recognise that most decisions are not truly made in the boardroom. They are made in the relationship building and ‘off-line’ conversations people use to canvas opinion and gain support for their ideas.
I have seen too many smart women diligently prepare their research and arguments for an ‘open’ discussion around the board table, only to feel confused and sidelined when it appears the decision has more or less already been made.
When I asked Caroline, the UK IT Director of a global logistics firm about this, she laughed: “You’re right. If you don’t shore up support beforehand, it can get very ugly and emotional within the boardroom – so making some of these decisions beforehand is critical.”
She had learned how vital this was by watching a particularly gregarious male colleague several years before.
She said: “Every time he had to present to the board, he spent the preceding days visiting every single board member, asking them for coffee, how their day was going, if they had time for a beer later.” She continued: “He went to every stakeholder, and nine times out of ten his proposals were accepted because he had gained the support of the individual board members before he ever walked into the boardroom.”
Caroline had clearly been impressed by her colleague’s foresight as she admitted that it was now the approach she took to get things done. She continued: “I get my Managing Director on side in terms of the general principles and direction I’d like to take. And once I have that, then I work my way around seeing each of the board members to make sure they are in agreement and I have addressed their concerns as well.”
In short? Spend time shoring up the support you need, as the boardroom is the last place you want a surprise.
Suzanne Doyle-Morris is the author of Beyond the Boys’ Club: Strategies for Achieving Career Success as a Woman Working in a Male-dominated Field.
Suzanne’s next virtual career development ‘bootcamps’ run in January and March.