EDITOR’S LETTER Guiding Principles

Robust communication must be the cornerstone of both solid journalism and discussion between directors. So it was with great pleasure that I attended recent exclusive debate between four members of the Institute of Directors: Rick Bettle, Sandy Maier, Denham Shale and Richard Punter. Hosted by governance recruitment specialists Sheffield, the debate centred around the IOD’s newly launched accreditation programme for directors. Questions probed the programme’s key aims and objectives and the extent to which they were being met, issues of relevance and transparency, and practical considerations such as dollars and references. Background material shaped reference to, and comparisons with, similar programmes in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.
It can’t be easy being in the thick of debate that is being taped for public dissemination and I should like to thank all four participants, plus Sheffield Accord host Peter Ross and question-master (and publisher of The Director) Reg Birchfield for their contributions. The end result forms the basis of this issue’s cover story “Fit for the job?” which starts on page six.
If it is true that vigorous debate can help form opinion and throw differences of the same into sharp relief, then it is equally true that simply sitting and listening can sometimes achieve the same result. So it was interesting to hear both SPARC chairman John Wells and CEO Nick Hill talk about the learning curves they climbed with observer-only status in boardrooms in their pasts.
Interviewed for this issue’s governance and management article “Results on the scoreboard”, both men recognise their days with non-speaking status as providing valuable experience. Hill recalls his fascination in seeing the dynamics evolving. “Over time get you to know the individuals, their styles and motivations so you really do understand what’s playing out. It’s the perfect education.”
Both men list “openness” as the key ingredient in their working relationship and recognise that sound rapport between chair and CEO gives the board confidence to channel its energies into doing what it is supposed to do: act as the guardian of why the organisation exists and ensure that it keeps the promises that it makes. Guiding principles like that could well apply to journalism too. Enjoy this issue of The Director.

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