Our cover story this month addresses a key governance challenge for members of our profession – how to optimise the effectiveness of the board of directors. Readers of this journal will be very familiar with the answers generally given to this question by traditional governance frameworks – they tend to focus on board structures and processes. While these are supremely relevant, the traditional approach often leaves unsaid the fact that directors are human beings. As such, they bring to the board their own personalities and any governance framework that tries to ignore this fact will only ever be, at best, partially effective.

On the flipside, a framework fully cognisant of the human factors relevant to good board decisionmaking is much more likely to succeed in creating the conditions for constructive challenge and healthy debate. This is where the theory and practice of boardroom dynamics comes into play and our cover story this month highlights the main advantages of incorporating insights from this area of governance into our board support work. It offers a wealth of suggestions to consider, some of which should already be in place. Director nomination and induction, together with board evaluation and succession, processes should certainly already be considering boardroom dynamics, culture and behavioural issues. Other suggestions range from relatively simple changes – for example circulating a draft meeting agenda for directors themselves to shape what will be discussed – to more ambitious reforms such as creating a board-specific code of conduct setting out the ethical and behavioural expectations for directors.

Perhaps most useful, however, are the suggestions relating to the hardest behavioural challenge – managing interpersonal conflicts. It is important to emphasise here that boardroom dynamics is not about keeping harmony at all costs – a robust debate will usually involve conflicting views. Nevertheless, establishing trust and mutual respect between board members is essential to avoid such debates escalating into unhealthy interpersonal conflict. Once again, our cover story offers practical suggestions to consider. For example, the board chair, supported by the governance professional, may opt to hold face-to-face conversations with the conflicted parties ahead of board meetings in an informal setting.

Nevertheless, the first obstacle to addressing such issues tends to be the reluctance of all parties to acknowledge that the conflict is a potential problem. This reluctance is part of that same mindset that delayed for so long the recognition and acceptance of psychology as a legitimate part of governance theory and practice. Our In Profile interview this month addresses this mindset directly. In the interview, Dr Robert Wright, Associate Professor, Department of Management and Marketing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, talks about his most recent research report that provides insights from psychology on how executives approach complex challenges.

Hopefully, this month’s journal will go some way towards restoring psychology to its rightful place in governance, but before I go, I would like to also mention a new column we are launching this month – NextGen Governance. This column will feature interviews with students and younger members of the profession about their views on governance and why they chose to pursue a career in our profession. I highly recommend this new column to CGj readers. The perspectives of our students and younger members on the meaning of governance as a practice and career choice will help shape the future direction of the profession in the years ahead.