A brief but important post today about a conversation all boards need but few boards have:
“What do we mean by confidentiality?”
You may have a written non-disclosure agreement that Directors have signed, and/or a verbal affirmation that “what happens around the board table stays there,” but in real life, the interpretation of confidentiality expectations can vary widely.
It may seem obvious. “Of course board meetings are confidential!” But are they?
Not everything a board discusses is cloaked in air-tight confidentiality. If you are planning a fundraising gala that is discussed at a board meeting, presumably you aren’t overstepping by letting your contacts know that event is upcoming. And what happens if you have a representative from one organization sitting on the board of another? Is it a breach of confidentiality for that person to communicate board happenings to their home organization, or is that the expectation? Is it acceptable for a Director to discuss stressful board dynamics with their spouse over dinner?
There are endless other possible examples. My points here are simple:
- Confidentiality boundaries are not universal or self-evident.
- They therefore need to be discussed and co-created explicitly with your board, sometimes on a case-by-case basis.
Clear is kind!