Support without Judgement – The Key to Effective Advisory Board Conversations

Thought Leadership Articles

Published 26 February 2021

The Key to Effective Advisory Conversations

Within the global advisory community, we come together on a regular basis in our Advisor Village sessions to connect, collaborate and develop our advisory skills by exploring key topics that are driving conversations at a Board level.

Throughout the month of October, the importance of investing in and nurturing our mental health has been a key focus topic.

In one of our recent sessions, we explored how “Support without Judgement” creates a strong foundation for high quality and effective advisory conversations.

While the pressures and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic have created new challenges, the mental load often carried by Business Owners, Executives and Directors is not new.

Carrying the weight of organisational success or failure, Business leaders are also faced with:

  • Information overload;
  • Ambiguity;
  • Decision fatigue; and
  • Unconscious biases.

These factors not only hinder day to day operations but can stifle the innovation, adaptability and optionality that creates long term, sustainable impact.

Support without Judgement

When I started my own advisory board journey as an entrepreneur, I knew I wanted to be challenged and stretched to lead my business to its full potential.

I didn’t want people that would blindly agree with me but I did want to feel understood and not judged – either for the knowledge gaps I had, the questions that I asked or even the decisions that I made.

By creating an Advisory Board framework that encouraged robust discussions, critical thinking and ethical engagement, my Advisory Board became a vital support mechanism to drive growth for the business and for me as a leader.

Across the globe, our professional advisory community engages in board-level discussions – from early-stage start-ups through to multi-national enterprises. While many of the conversations focus on strategic business initiatives and commercial drivers- as a profession we are acutely aware to never lose sight of the value that can be created by supporting and developing Business leaders.

One of the strategies that Advisory professionals can adopt is “unconditional positive regard” which was developed by renowned psychologist Carl Rogers. This approach is defined as accepting a person without negative judgment of their basic worth.

This means that you acknowledge the person’s actions, without passing judgement. Instead of, “That was a good/bad decision” try “It sounds like that was a hard decision to make.”

Removing judgement from the equation allows conversations to build and thinking to expand beyond the traditional “command and control” structure often seen at a board level.

It’s okay to disagree. In fact, it’s encouraged.

A high-quality Advisory Board meeting is often defined by robust discussion. Leaders are testing the boundaries of their own knowledge-seeking out new approaches, identifying potential blind spots and road testing strategies.

The core role of an Advisory Board is to provide non-binding strategic insight and advice. All decision making rests with the delegated authority within the business.

When this core role is delivered effectively, the discussions do not become limited by what the organisation “should do” but rather options open up to explore what the organisation “could do”.

Dissenting opinions can be openly shared. For a Business leader- this is a golden opportunity to gain diverse, independent perspectives and hone in on areas for further research and analysis. All of this leads to better quality and more confident decision making within the organisation.

Advisory Board members deliver value to the organisation not by having all of the answers but rather by asking the right questions to empower critical thinking.

Where To Go For Help

Depending on your role and your needs, there are a variety of support resources available.

For business leaders

Establishing an Advisory Board is a practical way to gain support to navigate business challenges and opportunities. The Advisory Board Centre provides the complimentary Advisor Concierge service to help business leaders to explore their options and connect with leading, independent professional Chairs and Advisors.  Learn More

Mental Health Support and Assistance – In addition to your own GP and health practitioners, Beyond Blue and Lifeline provide a range of confidential support resources accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Beyond Blue:


For professional Advisors

Professional membership with the Advisory Board Centre includes best practice professional development and a global peer network to support professionals at a board level.  From credentials through to our Advisor Village skills development sessions, our members stay current and connected to the market. Learn More

Mental Health & Wellbeing Literacy – Beyond Blue has recently launched a free online learning program for business advisers designed to improve mental health and wellbeing literacy and educate advisers about how to have an empathetic conversation with small business owners. This program is open to anyone to participate.