Directors’ Duties

The reality of neutrality

The famous Scottish poet, Robbie Burns, once wrote “Oh would some power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us” and that’s pretty apt advice when it comes to impartiality – in all walks of life, including the boardroom.

We all like to think of ourselves as balanced, fair and neutral individuals and for the most part, most of us are. But there’s one area of governance where it gets tricky: our ability – or lack thereof – to look at something objectively when facing a decision that might negatively impact on us personally.

Going back a good few years, I was involved with an 11-member board and it soon became abundantly clear that the evidence suggesting a board should never exceed nine members was spot on.
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If you need to ask the question, chances are there’s a conflict of interest

You might recall that in an earlier blog I mentioned how often I’d been approached for advice on how to go about getting on a board. There’s another question that’s equally ubiquitous, only it comes from those already on boards – and it has to do with conflicts of interest and what they should do about them.

My immediate response – and without knowing the full story – is always that if we have to ask the question, chances are there’s a conflict of interest. And wouldn’t it be better if we erred on the side of caution and did it properly?

So what is ‘properly’?
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