Submitted by: CSRwire's Video, Commentary and Research
Posted: Nov 14, 2008 – 10:22 AM EST
Commentary by Joanne McDonald of ENSCO, Inc
Commentary by Joanne McDonald of ENSCO, Inc
Nov. 14 /CSRwire/ - November 12, 2008 - Effective assessment of candidates has always been critical in recruiting top talent for companies. This is doubly true for the selection of members of your Board of Directors. There is a strong correlation between strong values, corporate social responsibility and business success. The best performing companies have leaders who have a strong moral compass and the will and ability to follow it. In today's environment, organizations are facing unprecedented challenges related to ethics, energy and the environment. Leadership and stewardship in these areas are critical to stakeholders, customers and employees. Even in the composition of Boards themselves, Board membership must expand to be more diversified in terms of different experiences, customers, geography, functional area expertise as well as race, ethnicity and gender. Today, the relevancy of effective Board members is paramount-they will help set the course for your company's success!
That being said, how can you make sure your next selection of a Board member is as good as it can possibly be? How can you make sure that your new Board member supports corporate social responsibility values? There are a few critical skills you'll need to master in order to select the best person for your Board. Whether you are doing it yourself, with a nominating committee, or a board placement search firm, the following elements should be considered:
The behavioral interviewing process involves asking for detailed examples that clearly illustrate how a candidate has performed a specific skill or demonstrated a particular competency in the past. In behavioral interviewing, past performance is a predictor of future performance. This process also allows the interviewer to assess the candidates and make an informed decision based on real capabilities and not on abstract or meaningless talk. In behavioral interviewing, questions are not hypothetical but focus on specific and detailed examples from the candidate's work history and work experience.
So, take each characteristic that you deem important to your business and focus the interview on asking behavioral questions. Ask the candidate, for instance, about their vision by asking them to tell you about a time when their vision made a difference to a successful outcome in business or about a time when their vision led their company to make a critical change and what was the result? On leadership, focus on their track record with people and their interpersonal skills. Ask them to tell you about their most difficult and challenging personnel management issue and how they handled it; what did they specifically learn from it? Ask them to tell you about the individuals they have personally assisted and guided in their careers and how those people went on to further success. Ask them what specific actions or programs they have undertaken to attain sustainable growth and strengthen their brand through corporate social responsibility programs aligned with their strategy? What examples of community involvement, product donations, educational programs or healthy environmental issues have they overseen? To get more comfortable with behavioral interviewing and the questions you should ask, a good source with lots of sample questions is: "How to Choose the Right Person for the Right Job Every Time by Lori Davila and Louise Krusmark, Mc-Graw-Hill, 2004.
Focus on the key characteristics you want in a board member: vision, leadership, corporate social responsibility values, crisis management experience, authenticity, agility of thinking, outstanding communication skills, fit with boardroom culture, candor, courage, integrity and collegiality. In addition, you'll want someone who is persuasive and compelling without being confrontational. These key characteristics are critical for a successful Board member. Most key executives and Board members don't lose their positions because they don't know the business or the technology or how to focus on shaping the strategic direction of a company. Most key executives and Board members lose their positions because they lack one or more of the key characteristics of the position.
Most Boards will face a crisis or two and, when that happens, you will want board members who have the ability to communicate effectively. Ask potential candidates how they handled a crisis situation they personally experienced in the past? Ask them what was the toughest integrity issue they ever encountered and how did they handle it? Have they ever held on to an unpopular decision that they believed strongly in? How did they handle the opposition? What was the outcome?
Finally, the most important part of any interview and selection process, besides the carefully selected questions, is how well you listen. When you ask insightful behavioral questions, listen; really listen carefully to the answers. Candidates will often reveal what you need to know about them in their answers, if you truly listen. The stories they tell and the examples they relate will provide the keys to your understanding. Listening is where all the really important information can be found and the candidates truly revealed.
The company you see today is not the company you will see tomorrow. Candidates must demonstrate that they continue to seek out learning opportunities and experiences to keep themselves and the board abreast of current issues that may have widespread impact. Is the candidate involved with and stay abreast of new business models that incorporate corporate social responsibility?
Has the candidate shown initiative in director education, for example, or are they stuck in another decade? The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) and various well known universities (MIT, Harvard, Northwestern, Duke, Sanford, to name a few), offer a variety of courses to address critical issues facing Boards today. NACD even offers a Certificate of Director Education. Fewer than 1,500 Board members have this prestigious certification which includes a Code of Conduct and a commitment to continuing education. It is fast becoming the gold standard for Board education in the changing corporate governance landscape.
By incorporating these elements in your selection process and, ultimately, choosing a Board member that exhibits the values and characteristics the company embraces clearly enhances the Board and helps the organization secure a path to a successful future.
About Joanne McDonald
Joanne McDonald is a member of the Board of Directors of ENSCO, Inc., a technology company located in Falls Church, Virginia. She holds a Certificate of Director Education from NACD and is Vice President of Administration and Human Resources. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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