Outsiders on our boards

Written by Joseph F.X. Zahra, 28 August 2013

For more information about MISCO Directors Network, please visit www.miscodirectors.com 

Some weeks ago I wrote about the perils of having a static composition of the board of directors, with members staying on for long years. The company may suffer from lack of fresh ideas, from indifference in the search for new adventures and enterprise, and the danger of having professionals who found their comfort zone on the board by not asking enough or not shaking the “status quo”. The world of corporate governance is also moving rapidly and swiftly... these directors might not be keeping themselves up-to-date with the latest regulations.

In our case in Malta, the matter becomes even more acute in relevance and importance. We still have board of directors of larger sized group of companies (mostly family businesses) that have traditional board compositions without the presence of independent or non executive directors. This implies that most have not yet appreciated the value of having professionals on the board with a profile of expertise but also with an understanding and aptitude for the delicate role of a director. MISCO Directors' Network is creating this awareness in segments of the business landscape that are so far oblivious of the benefits of the presence of independent directors on the board. The number of professionals practicing as executives, accountants, corporate lawyers, bankers,  qualified marketers and economists (some of whom with international experience) getting closer to retirement age is growing and we expect a pool of talent ready to provide directorship services in the future.

In the more mature and advanced business world the main theme at the moment is that of women on boards. A study conducted by Boris Groysberg and Deborah Bell of Harvard Business School earlier this year has identified the benefits of having women participating on board of directors. Women bring a new perspective and diversity of thought at board level; they are more willing than men to ask questions and challenge the status quo; they are more collaborative and inclusive, and they have greater empathy and interpersonal skills. On the challenges side, it has also been found out that they have to be more qualified than men to take up board positions, and to be listened to and taken seriously by their male counterparts. This is a gender barrier that still needs to be pulled down.

The main question that shareholders (including family owners) should ask is where do we want our investment in this company to be in 5 years or 10 years time? The answer is most definitely not in the status quo or comfort zones of using the same recipes with the same people... but it is all a matter of fresh ideas from persons, male or female, that can professionally tell you what they think about your business, question the established values and practices and decide on what is considered to be right for the sustainability and growth of your company. Will you take up the challenge? 

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