Professor Bob Garratt is delighted to be once again leading the module ‘Understanding Governance and Power’ at Fidelio’s “A Seat at the Table” Programme. Bob argues that a true understanding and appreciation of the law, behaviours and ethical stance of directors creates a basis for effective direction-giving. He explains why corporate governance and organisational leadership are national assets and provide the cornerstone for effective Boards. Standards of governance continue to evolve throughout the world and our programme highlights areas of best practice and the basic laws.
Fidelio: Are there any gender-specific observations you would make about governance?
Bob Garratt: In theory, no. In practice, Boards are adopting new perspectives and opening up new opportunities as women reach the 30% participation level. In the UK, there is increasing interest in not just diversity through gender but all aspects including age. As workplace age diversity increases it will, in time, strengthen the representation of women on Boards.
Fidelio: What is the significance of a module on governance in the “Seat at the Table” programme?
Bob Garratt: The “Seat at the Table” programme is all about how to be an effective director. Remember, the UK Companies Act does not distinguish between executive and non-executive directors. This calls for a deep understanding of the law, behaviours and ethical stance of directors. The body of law relating to directors is vast – much greater than that relating to executives. Governance forms the building block of Board effectiveness and the Companies Act’s ‘Seven Duties of a Director’ provide the key reference point for all eventualities. Corporate law and governance in the UK is well-tested and robust and is arguably second only to South Africa in terms of rigour. In comparison the US is surprisingly not as far advanced.
Fidelio: So is there a spectrum of governance ranged across countries? Is it an easily exportable commodity?
Bob Garratt: As just mentioned, South Africa and the UK lead the field but more than 50% of world corporates observe the rule of Common Law, led by the 54 Commonwealth countries. This common legal framework provides the structure for effective corporate governance. China is currently considering adapting Hong Kong Company Law and so is of particular interest. Elsewhere the Gulf States are beginning to adopt more liberal laws based on the three cornerstones of good governance; namely accountability, probity and transparency.
Fidelio: What do you think is the most common pitfall of an aspirant director?
Bob Garratt: A propensity to micro-manage executives from the boardroom table, by over-using knowledge and behaviours based on their own executive experience. Directors need to concentrate on driving the business forward by ensuring a helicopter view to focus on the strategic direction of the business rather than the more operational everyday issues. Courses and annual evaluation can help directors at any stage from falling into this very common trap. It is possible to learn the structures, mind-sets and behaviours of a director. In addition, a new incumbent has the opportunity to ask pertinent questions from the stance of ‘intelligent naivety’. The chairman must support in this learning process to help question issues that may not have been visited for a while.
Fidelio: What was your key takeaway from the Sandhurst programme and hopes for those attending Leeds Castle?
Bob Garratt: Sandhurst underlined my strong belief that there are a growing number of women more than capable of making excellent directors. The diversity of the talented group of delegates was impressive coming from a range of sectors and geographies. I am very optimistic about the pool of talented female directors and I am thrilled to be part of a programme helping to realise their full potential. The Sandhurst programme was exceptionally well received and I am confident that those attending Leeds Castle will come away equally enthused and with a clear idea of the next steps in building their career and so ensuring their success at the top table. More than that, they will have the ability to stay connected and share experiences with a like-minded group of women and continue to learn and assimilate new ideas.
About Fidelio Partners
Fidelio, the Board Development and Executive Search consultancy, will be hosting the “Seat at the Table” for a selected group of senior executive females on 15th & 16th March 2016 at Leeds Castle. This programme focusses on the personal and professional development of Senior Female Executives and prepares them for the critical transition to the most senior direction-giving roles within an organisation.
Professor Bob Garratt
Bob Garratt is a senior consultant with Fidelio Partners and a member of Fidelio’s Board Development practice team. He has chaired innovative companies in London and Hong Kong and has extensive experience in Board evaluation and development in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors internationally. He was on the international panel for the redesign of the corporate governance of the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, and advisor to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Fund on banking governance. He has written extensively on Board developm