Five Behaviors That Cause Dysfunction in the Boardroom Labeling director dysfunctional types is tricky business. Let’s be clear. While organizational psychologists often “label” personality types, no single behavioral label fully incorporates the mosaic of an individual personality. None of us fits all of one or all of another so-‐called personality types or labels. Each of us is a complex combination of personality traits. We each see the world -‐ not necessarily as it is – but often through lenses that evolve from a lifetime’s worth of experiences and self-‐created defensive templates. From those templates emerge individual and combinations of traits, both fluid and dynamic, that make up our individual personalities and the behaviors we project to others. But, for the sake of simple identification of dysfunctional behaviors that impact the effectiveness of individual director and full board performance, consider these oft-‐ observed behavioral traits: 1. Know-‐It-‐All – The Know-‐It-‐All has been there and done that, just bigger and better. The Know-‐It-‐All is a poor listener, seldom asks positive, open-‐ended questions, and yet seems to know all the answers. The Know-‐It-‐All often just enjoys being the contrarian in the room, because the Know-‐It-‐All thinks that’s what directors are supposed to do. 2. Intimidator – The Intimidator domineers, distrusts, and criticizes others, especially management. The Intimidator bullies, attacks and often makes intimidating, irrefutable statements or declarations, assuming no one else dare challenge. Rather than asking inquisitive, thoughtful, open-‐ended questions, the Intimidator accuses. And by body language and facial contortions, the Intimidator conveys what he doesn’t say out loud. 3. Floater – The Floater is sometimes here and sometimes there, sometimes present and sometimes not. Floaters often miss meetings altogether, or, when present, often come late, leave early to catch a flight or get to another meeting, and are checked out or otherwise disengaged in varying degrees. The Floater can often be seen checking for texts, messages, or voicemails during meeting presentations. Even worse is the Floater who distracts the flow of or sidetracks the meeting by initiating side conversations with other directors. 4. Pretender to the Throne – The Pretender sees himself as the rightful CEO of his board organization and hopes other directors will come to see that also. To assist them, the Pretender is both critical and unsupportive of the current CEO. The Pretender second guesses and nitpicks. Pretenders are often former CEOs who strongly want to be back pushing the management levers. Pretenders are not mentors or helpmates to or supporters of the current CEO. 5. Ceremonials – Ceremonials are often there simply for the sake of belonging, the prestige, or the board fees. Ceremonials are often clueless about what’s really going on in the organization and do not fully prepare in advance of meetings. While it’s often said that effective directors “have their noses in and fingers out” of the business, Ceremonials are just as apt not to put their noses too far in either. They don’t question much about anything and are eager to get along and go along. Ceremonials can be relied upon to display unquestioning support and are an imperial CEO’s dream because of their willingness to rubber stamp, not ask questions, and engage in groupthink.
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