Upsetting the Boardroom Culture By: Mark Rogers
All boards have a unique dynamic. Some are inherently serious, while others adopt an approach that includes an atmosphere of levity. Some boards view their meetings as an open debate akin to a session from the British House of Commons while others need to have extra pots of coffee available to stay awake. There is no right or wrong boardroom dynamic - provided that the board is acting at all times in the best interests of their stakeholders, consistent with their fiduciary responsibilities. Nevertheless, for some boards, culture is playing a role in the recruitment process. Boards are now considering the impact that a prospective candidate will have on a specific board's culture before recruiting them for a board seat.
Considering the potential impact a candidate will have on the culture of a board is understandable. Most corporate boards end up spending a significant amount of time together in board meetings, committee meetings, annual meetings, and other in-person events. Not to mention the numerous conference calls. Therefore, it makes sense that boards want to like the new recruit they bring in and they want to make sure that the individual will not upset the culture of the boardroom.
So how are boards determining whether a prospective candidate fits their culture? By doing their homework, of course. Most boards meet with the individual -- ideally in an informal setting to gauge how the individual interacts with other board members. Other boards reach out to individuals who work with the candidate or who have served on a board with them in an effort to understand the impact the candidate’s personality and overall approach to problem- solving. Some boards are taking a more sophisticated approach by actually having candidates take a personality test.
Although culture is indeed becoming a much more important aspect of boardroom recruitment, boards need to understand that the pursuit of the perfect cultural fit may at times need to give way to the candidate with a desired skill-set or background who can best propel the board forward.