Posts Tagged ‘board directors’

Why We Do What We Do

March 27th, 2014 | By

A recent meeting with NACD Chair Reatha Clark King has revealed some compelling thoughts on why good corporate governance matters and why we at NACD do what we do. 

Over the last 37 years, NACD has researched, documented, and published leading boardroom practices including Blue Ribbon Commission reports, handbooks, white papers, and surveys. Our intent is to advance exemplary board leadership.

As I dug into the question of why we do what we do with directors who serve on NACD’s board, I used a classic marketing approach to define higher order, emotional benefits. A benefit-oriented discussion enables one to organize responses into a pyramid-shaped format. Product attributes serve as the foundation and subsequent perspectives provide product and end benefits, ultimately leading to emotional benefits. Capturing the emotional essence enables one to develop a sustainable, differentiated position.

When I asked the “why we do” question, I received responses such as:

  • To help directors make better decisions
  • To ensure that the perspectives of all stakeholders are heard
  • To do the best job I can
  • To represent the shareholder
  • To increase the value of the enterprise

While these responses are appropriate, there was an obvious follow-up question: “Well, why does that matter?” It reminded me of conducting in-home ethnography research and one-on-one interviews when I was in marketing at Kraft Foods–sessions that were typically enjoyable for me, but a bit painful for the participant.

The culmination of responses to “why we do what we do” can be summarized in two remarkably simple bullet points:

  • Enterprise sustainability
  • Stakeholder confidence

To me, this perspective is both impactful and relevant. First, the answers are brief and to the point. Second, each bullet point contains what I would describe as a lightning rod word–sustainability and stakeholder–and each of these words can have a variety of meanings depending on the audience.

Enterprise sustainability means, quite simply, that the company is around for a long time. An enduring enterprise provides long-term benefits to its employees and their families, to suppliers and vendors, to the community in which it operates, and to those who provide financing–bankers, investors, and donors. Further, enterprise sustainability means that the leaders of companies, both in the boardroom and the C-suite, remain aware of current and emerging issues that may impact these companies, and are engaged in robust dialogue about strategic implications. I call this strategic agility.

As a result, stakeholder confidence is established, reinforced, and bolstered.  Regardless of how a company is structured–public, private, nonprofit, mutual, or family owned–all enterprises have stakeholders, and the long-term viability of the enterprise is overseen by a board of directors.

Therefore, everything that NACD does–from our NACD Directorship 2020® initiative to our expanding range of events, resources, and services–provides unique value to NACD members to advance exemplary board leadership. The intended outcome of all of our activity is NACD members who demonstrate a commitment to not only continuously learning, but also demonstrating the courage to question the unknown and working to sharpen their strategic agility. Once this is achieved, NACD members are poised to help create sustainable enterprises and bolster stakeholder confidence.

I welcome your feedback on this topic. Please join me in sharing your views of why we do what we do.

NACD Prepares Directors for Heightened Responsibilities and Regulation

February 10th, 2011 | By

America’s economic health is inextricably linked to business growth and sound boardroom practices. And while many decry the corporate scandals that erupted in recent years, NACD believes in looking towards the future and working with directors to better prepare them to lead America’s companies.

How to Be(come) a Director is our new Web-based course designed to educate newly minted directors and help aspiring directors advance their board careers by learning about boardroom best practices that will enable them to become responsible stewards of companies and shareholders. This is not some sterile academic exercise, to be sure. Rather, the 4 hour eLearning course provides real-life lessons from top corporate governance experts, including directors of Fortune 500 companies and scholars at prominent academic institutions. The topics covered in the course are essential to sound corporate management: fiduciary responsibilities, essential directorship skills, the board selection process, understanding committees, and much more.

Watch the trailer:

How to Be(come) A Director Trailer

Want a sneak peek to see how this course works?

  • Click here to play video bios of the expert directors who teach the course.
  • Click here to enjoy this free sample of some of the course videos.

Course participants will learn from a veritable “Who’s Who” in corporate governance, including Kenneth Daly, the president and CEO of NACD; Denny Beresford, director at Fannie Mae, Kimberly-Clark Corporation and Legg Mason; Reatha Clark King, former director at General Mills Foundation and at Exxon Mobil Corporation; and Professor Charles M. Elson, the director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware.

For just under $400, this self-paced program fills an urgent need, seeking to raise the standards of ethical behavior, accountability and competence in boardroom leadership. It also helps current and future directors cope with an atmosphere of heightened regulation and scrutiny.

Repeat access to the course gives participants the flexibility to review certain sections again for better understanding. In addition, the core course content is supplemented by downloads that can be used to build a personal corporate governance library, as well as video, bonus materials and knowledge checks for participants to see how much they’ve learned.

It is not getting any easier to run a company in this age of intensified public scrutiny and government regulation. However, How to Be(come) a Director provides a solid platform to help corporate directors prepare for boardroom success both for their companies and for their own careers.

Award Season!

February 3rd, 2011 | By

OK, director-colleagues (and those who are similarly aligned), I am sure you are all following the current season of best-film and best-acting nominations and awards with great interest. Or, maybe not. In either case, it’s time to step away, and to take a brief detour from your desktop, or your laptop, or your iPad, or whatever device on which this appears.

AwardWe’re going to have our own little group of highly unofficial award nominations. Not “Best Director,” not “Best Committee,” not “Best Board.” Those—or their facsimiles—have already been created. Our job here is to identify the awards that we hope our own boards would win for their own work. And my job is just to start the ball rolling, or rather, to get you thinking.

Here are my categories and a few comments on potential nominees. I hope you’ll read them, and then add to the list. After all, if we’re going to turn this into a three-hour event worthy of a network telecast, we’re going to need awards across a whole barrelful of categories. I’ll start, but then you’ll need to chip in.

  1. Most Over-Worked Topic on Board Blogs: And the nominees are: Social Networking, Social Networking, and Social Networking! Oh, yes—and Social Network—259,000 entries on Google. Current Favorite: Hmm…let’s think.
  2. Women in the boardroomTopic That Most Boards Aren’t Sure How to Deal With: Nominees: Social Networking, Political Contributions, Number of Women on the Board. Current Favorite: All of the above. One that won’t go away for a while: Number of women on the board. Our colleagues around the world have begun mandating membership ratios.
  3. Least-Favorite Current Topic among Board Members: Nominees: Social Networking, Proxy Access, Say on Pay, CEO Compensation, Director Compensation. Current Favorite: All of the above.
  4. Most Fruitful “New” Board Practice: Nominees: Instituting and participating in a regularly scheduled, board-management offsite on corporate strategy; reallocating more board time to committee meetings, as opposed to full-board sessions; changing the location of meetings from isolated boardrooms or offsite rooms to onsite, “middle-of-the-action” company locations; changing where people sit at meetings; and putting in a speaking-time limitation or edict to reduce the effect of “air-hogs.” Current favorite: Unclear, but we sure know the LEAST favorite. People HATE changing where they sit. Alas.
  5. Wildest Idea to Improve Board-Member Focus: Nominees: Measurably increase mandatory director shareownership and retention requirements; Take the Undercover Boss reality show concept and apply it to directors by making them go “undercover” as employees; Administer a How Much Do You Know about Your Company?” quiz to members at the board meeting and openly grade it immediately thereafter; Conduct a “Zero-PowerPoint” board meeting; Have board members randomly selected to present on the topic: “What I Learned in the Past Month about Our Company.” Current Favorite: None. In fact, just the mention of any of these could easily induce a lively—if not awkward— conversation about social networking.

Other nominees?  Other categories?  The envelope, please. 

Over to you.