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a Board’s perspective on hiring CEOs 

 November 25, 2014

By  bem_admin

CEO’s are accountible to Boards in the majority of corporate situations. The hiring of CEO’s is often a Board’s responsibility, and as such, Betsy Atkins, author of ‘Behind Boardroom Doors: Lessons of a Corporate Director’, and a many-time board member herself, provides some tips and perspectives for this process.

a Board’s perspective on hiring CEOs

introduction

CEO’s are accountible to Boards in the majority of corporate situations. The hiring of CEO’s is often a Board’s responsibility, and as such, Betsy Atkins, author of ‘Behind Boardroom Doors: Lessons of a Corporate Director’, and a many-time board member herself, provides some tips and perspectives for this process.

Betsy agonizes that the most critical skills in a CEO are the ones you can’t quantify

CEO’s are the ones that investors, suppliers, managers and team members ultimately need confidence in. To gain this confidence, no amount of burgeoning results, increasing share prices or larger market share will work. Sure, these speak volumes on the surface, represented in numbers and quantifiable evidence of positive business acumen. Yet, this does not divulge how those results were achieved. There’s many ways to skin a cat, and surface results may have been at the expense of unrealistic cutbacks, reduction of workforce or unwarranted managment styles.

She discussed the relevance of a board member interacting with the candidate out of formal interview channels at some stage, entering the arena of social settings. In this environment, one can listen for and observe the softer leadership attributes of team building, resourcefulness, political skills, credit sharing, personal behavior, judgements and general interaction with others.

Betsy reiterates the importance of reference checks to be done by the board member themselves

When a board is spearheading a selection process, it will realize that the board itself will be accountible for results, by virtue of the selection process. Only the board will know what is truly important against their own criteria and hence they themselves must conduct the reference checks. Not only will this reiterate priorities of the company, but will also, and sometimes unexpectedly so, uncover information. ‘You can hear nuances in pregnant pauses that aren’t always apparent in a preference write-up. It’s not that I don’t trust the executive search firm, yet it’s clear they have an incentive to close the transaction, rather than prolong the debate.’

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Betsy eludes to the relevance of culture to a CEO

Betsy eludes to, yet I expand upon, the importance of a CEO’s respect for corporate culture being the figure-head and ‘greatest advertisement’ for the company. Corporate culture sends messages loudly about the fears and inner workings of the CEO! Recently informed by a US giant ‘we don’t combine our work or thinking with that of others’, I can only reflect that the CEO of that company works from a place of separation, highlights his own importance and is allowing the current collaborative world to slide on past him. Should a board hire a CEO who would allow that to happen in his organization?

To conclude, the CEO is in fact the barometer for the company, the thinking and reputation of a company, and as such boards should not be beyond the hiring process, but rather have a great opportunity to get out there and source aligned CEO’s by being active in the recruitment process and transparent in the reality of the company during the process. Boards should not be ‘above this duty’.

Debbie Nicol, Managing Director of Dubai-based ‘business en motion’, and creator and author of the ‘embers of the world’ series, is passionate about change. She works with both traditional and contemporary toolkits that move businesses and executive leaders ahead, whilst working on leader and organizational development, strategic change and corporate cultures.

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Debbie Nicol

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