by Rebecca Knight (Contributor, Financial Times)
With the recent financial crisis helping to push board accountability into the spotlight, Lucy P. Marcus, professor of leadership and governance at IE Business School in Madrid, is urging companies to be more open to non-traditional candidates for their boards.
She says, “It is easy to go with who you know, who’s in your club and who you went to school with. Intuitively, we all feel comfortable with people who are like us. But we need to look at new ways to find different people… When I see an organisation with a board that has a preponderance of people with similar — if not identical — profiles, it makes me wonder about the business as a whole.”
Professor Lucy P. Marcus, chief executive of Marcus Venture Consulting, knows what she’s talking about. She is a non-executive chair of the Mobius Life Sciences Fund and is non-executive director and chair of the board audit committee of BioCity Nottingham. The crisis, she says, has been a wake-up call to companies that “they need to make change”.
“There are countless talented women who can and do serve very ably on boards, and they can even bring a bonus of adding much-needed diversity of other kinds as well, be it entrepreneurial, international, functional, or cross-sector experience. The important thing is not to be wed to a cookie-cutter image of what makes a strong board candidate.”
Once these non-traditional candidates win a seat at the table, directors must prepare — or “on-board” — them comprehensively, she says — “Give them an initiation package that is full of minutes from past meetings and other information that they need to know. Be sure they are given time with the chair to understand the challenges that the board faces. Give them time to meet with a senior executive team. Give them training and board education. We need to give those board members the opportunity to be successful.”