This is an excerpt of Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc’s “Governance for Regulators” handbook. To view additional sections of the handbook, click here.
Doing the work of a regulator is a team activity. There are certain “soft skills” that are vital to being an effective Board or committee member, and the ability to respect others within the organization is probably the most critical one of them.
Courtesy and civility are the main components of respect towards one’s regulatory colleagues. This includes paying attention during the meeting, avoiding side conversations and turning mobile devices off. Active listening techniques (e.g., head nodding, eye contact) can add a lot to the discussion.
Tone is everything. Board and committee members can (and sometimes should) disagree with each other. Board and committee members should call out comments that are inconsistent with the mandate of the regulator or where inadequate information has been provided. However, this should be done with humility, sensitivity and, perhaps even on occasion, humour.
Another crucial element of respect is for a Board or committee member to bring an open mind to the meeting. Tentative views on issues are to be expected. However, Board and committee members should enter the meeting with the possibility that their views could change depending on the points made by their colleagues. Indicating how one will vote on an issue before the meeting is disrespectful to both the process and one’s colleagues.
Another form of respect, discussed in more detail elsewhere, is the principle of supporting the final decision once it has been made. This is called “speaking with one voice”.
Ernie Eager proposes on the morning of the meeting to add a late item to the Board meeting agenda. The agenda is already full and Micaela, another Board member, is concerned that the issue is a distraction. Micaela, who sits on the same committees as Ernie, is reluctant to vote against adding it to the agenda as she knows that would be disappointing to Ernie. Should Micaela abstain so as to show respect to Ernie?
Respect does not mean agreement. If Micaela believes the added agenda item would distract from other higher priority items, she should vote against the motion. However, Micaela can do so in a manner that shows respect to Ernie. For example, she could speak to the item during the discussion of the motion (or even privately with Ernie afterwards) indicating admiration for Ernie’s fervour but indicating that the planned and prepared agenda items require the Board’s full attention and energy.