A company council gathers together a select group of trusted individuals to discuss and resolve company questions or needs. Each member of the council brings their perspective, experience, and advice on the matter at hand. Let’s look at how and why councils may be used to take your company to the next level.
Leadership teams are increasingly using this tool to strengthen their decision-making abilities and tap into the wisdom of each area of the company. A council may be held on a one-time basis to receive input on a single matter. Or the principles that govern a council may be introduced as a new element of company culture in regularly held meetings.
Council’s Counsel TogetherThe words council and counsel are homonyms, or they sound the same but have different meanings. Counsel describes the main activity of a council, and to counsel together describes how council members listen, discuss, propose ideas, and work together towards a unified solution. The spirit of a company council is the opposite of conduct displayed by individuals who excite fierce debate and create contention to force a decision.
The primary message is that practical councils counsel together in relative accord, even though each council member may and should have different views. For this to be successful, each council member listens to and seeks to understand the opinions of others and incorporates helpful ideas into their reasoning.
Council members should also be willing to bend, adjust, and reshape their ideas, working towards the best solution for the company.
The Strength of a Council
Ideally, council members represent a variety of interests and perspectives. Each individual’s difference strengthens the council. Everyone should feel free to express their opinions and ideas in a climate where each voice is heard and considered.
When a question or need is brought to the council for consideration, each council member’s personal and work experience can be drawn upon to influence the discussion. Effective council members listen and learn rather than plan for what they want to say next. They are open to others’ ideas, actively listen, and carefully do their part to contribute to a final decision.
When respect governs the actions of a council, new ideas are often born as opposing views are presented and discussed.
As you discuss the outcome after a council meeting, you’ll often see how a proposed idea that was apparently rejected during the meeting had a significant impact on the final recommendation. This realization increases the potential worth of each person’s counsel.
Council members may be individually aware of personnel, situations, or resources available that may be leveraged to answer the question or meet the need being discussed.
As many councils meet regularly, minutes should be recorded and made available to participants. Effective minutes capture decisions made and individual assignments accepted. Any assignments made should lead the agenda at the following council meeting.
Once a decision is made, all council members move forward and actively support it.
The Council Leader
Each council requires a leader. The leader is often the person responsible for final decisions and outcomes. They work with the council to identify topics and need to be discussed. Usually, but not always, the leader conducts and guides the meeting.
The leader’s role is to encourage and promote discussion by all members of the council. At the same time the leader must be careful not to dominate or control. Their role is to invite and encourage the free flow of ideas from council members.
Many who maintain a hardline traditional leadership role may find it a challenge to restrain their personal opinions and open up to the views of subordinates. If not controlled, this weakness could render the council ineffective.
A skillful leader has the desire and discipline to invite council members to voice their ideas and suggestions, even when contrary to the current consensus.
One indicator the counseling process is working well is when the combined views of the council evolve and bend as input is contributed.
Finally, it’s the leader’s responsibility to prepare an agenda for the council meeting. It should be prepared in advance and be available to the members for comment and input well before the meeting begins. Agendas must provide for ample open discussion time so the issues can be well vetted.
The most effective councils occur when members arrive well prepared for the meeting and ready to listen and present their ideas.
Prior preparation will be improved by sharing clearly stated objectives and needed background information. Specific assignments to individual council members should be made well in advance of the meeting.
Council members should be prepared to arrive with thick skin and not easily be hurt by opposing ideas and opinions. A council meeting requires them to spend 90% of their time focusing on and opening up to the ideas of others and perhaps only 10% of their effort sharing their perspective.
A council member who arrives to the meeting closed-minded and focused only on their ideas and needs may have a limited ability to contribute to this kind of decision-making process. Ideally, open-mindedness is the prevailing attitude.
A unified and robust council may wield a powerful influence on the decisions and direction of a company. Leadership that decides to form and use councils displays a willingness to learn and receive valued input from others.
Although the council works together, often the person responsible for the outcome of the decision has the final say. The leader may have a broader view of the issue and access to information the council may not have. However, the council leader does not decide how to resolve a question until they have heard the discussion. Ideally, the final decision should be shared with the council members.
When company councils are held, and their counsel is implemented into the company, it is evident that the company is becoming more open and eager to embrace advancements in our changing society.
We hear the words openness and transparency almost daily. Company councils are where talk stops and action begins to advance the society and strength of their company.
Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, Inc., an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. Share your ideas about company councils with Doc at ncilink.com/ContactMe or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, downloads, and current training opportunities