On Board of Directors

Why Competence Is Not Enough

“All the generalizations are wrong — including this one” — Donald Rumsfeld

I was recently asked if my latest recommendations about re-inventing Corporate Venture Capital are applicable to BODs (Boards of Directors). Although, in principal, I try not to generalize — the applicability of the above to BODs, is uncanny!

For years, I shared my experiences with a number of open-minded and curious BODs. In my opinion, nothing else helps adding more brand value — than the right chemistry at BOD’s table.

I am convinced, that outside of BODs, there are not too many places left to a public company’s CEO — where her/him can engage in a confidential and frank dialogue. Especially, in times of generational disruptions. Moreover, let’s not forget, that all publicly traded corporations have additional challenges to deal with: they need to balance long-term goals with short-term objectives — or as Jack Welch brilliantly said: “You’ve got to eat while you dream”

As a long-term proponent of progressive corporate governance — I remain committed to addressing the following BOD requirements:

- Board structure (independence)

- Board membership (fit and balance — skills inventory)

- Board process (finding and retaining)

- Board effectiveness (skills, aptitudes)

- Functional Characteristics (change agents, consensus builders, counselors, challengers)

- CBSR (Competencies, Behaviour, Strategy, Recruitment)

- CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility — also known as 3Ps: People, Profits, Planet)

Therefore, I strongly encourage BODs to seek both: COMPETENCE AND INTEGRITY. We all know that Competence without Integrity makes you deal with a self-serving professional; while Integrity without Competence means that you’re being served by a well-meaning but inept individual.

The broadest BOD’s notion of perspective and vision — the better. And being pretty good, collectively, at a lot of things — can be much more valuable than being the best specialist at a specific field of knowledge.

Reviewing corporate transactions at BOD level — is only one side of the story. Transactions come and go, their rates of return frequently change. In contrast, BOD’s analysis of honesty, competence and integrity — will serve the corporation well, for many years to come.

IMHO, many businesses and NGOs fail to meet their objectives only because they are poorly managed, or poorly governed. I realized many years ago that facts don’t speak for themselves as one has to make sense of the facts and not just get them straight. It’s not the accuracy and abundance of information that matters — rather, it’s how such information is being interpreted.

Simply put, the task of leaders is to manage ambiguity and to mobilize action — and not to store highly accurate knowledge about their environment. An interpretive orientation — unlike accurate intelligence — can be a source of competitive advantage.

However, changing management’s behaviour — is not a matter of providing analysis but of helping CEOs to see and feel the problems. Feelings transform behaviour — and BODs are a perfect place to do so.

A productive BOD member, should be eager to explore new approaches and learn from creative challenges. Her/him should take great pride in a job well done and relentlessly pursue problem-solving with energy and enthusiasm.

On a personal note, sharing my own professional experiences at BODs — gives me the utmost satisfaction. Years ago, I came across an ancient Greek Proverb, which I modified — to reflects my personal outlook on one’s professional life. It summarizes a simple set of rules to live-by:

  • During the first 10 years of your professional life — you are most likely to “RUN PROJECTS”

Hence you must learn to BE PATIENT

  • During the next 10 years — you are most likely to “RUN PEOPLE”

Hence you must learn to BE JUST

  • During the most senior years of your life — you are most likely to “RUN COMPANIES”

Hence you must learn how to LEAD, MENTOR AND INSPIRE

  • Only then, you will achieve the highest professional satisfaction — and in accordance with a classical Greek tragedy: die without regret

The Bottom Line: If you are looking for directors who are motivated and driven to achieve, rather than by monetary rewards — look for individuals exhibiting a great passion for leading, mentoring and inspiring others. The best directors love to learn, solve problems — and they take great pride in a job well done.

Oleg Feldgajer is President & CEO of Canada Green ESCO Inc. Oleg is positioning the company to become a leader in financing AI enhanced green energy projects and ventures. CGE’s mission is to guide DISRUPTIVE businesses in ENERGY & TRANSPORTATION toward profitable business models. Oleg is passionate about such mission, and firmly believes that without AI based innovation, we will all prematurely choke on polluted air and dirty water. CGE delivers 100% financing (levered and unlevered) to its clients — and utilizes large equity pools, and non-recourse debt. Oleg offers creative, fresh ideas to open-minded businesses — that embrace both: logic AND opportunistic intuition. CGE stands against mediocrity & its modus operandi is quite simple: If CGE is not invited to join your BOD, or Advisory Board — we failed!

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