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New Adaptation Call for a Widening of the Director Gene Pool

Adaptation chairman tells international conference that company nomination committees should consider experienced candidates from the voluntary, public and professional sectors for board appointments.

Peterborough, United Kingdom, November 02, 2009 --( Delegates at this year’s International Corporate Governance Conference were asked to widen their search for potential directors. According to Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas “Recent events have called into question the value added by many boards, particularly those of financial institutions that have been bailed out or whose assets have been written down. The banks rescued by Governments are not obscure companies run by inexperienced directors. They include household names, whose board members have included the ‘great and the good’ of the City establishment.”

Coulson-Thomas feels that “Despite their directorial pedigrees, clear duties and responsibilities and regular attendances at meetings, many directors seem to have neither noticed nor questioned dangerous practices. Executive directors have not been held to account. Boards have presided over bank cultures and practices that suggest a short-term focus, self-interest and greed among those for whom they have been responsible.”

The Adaptation chairman suggested “an alternative to ‘safe directors’ who ‘look the part’ with their smart suits and ‘track records’ of service on plc boards, and who can be relied upon not to question, challenge or probe. We need to look beyond the ‘normal suspects’ for people of integrity who would be willing to ask difficult questions and who would welcome an opportunity to ‘make a contribution.’”

Coulson-Thomas believes “Given the evident deficiencies of the current narrow gene pool from which directors are selected and the lack of value some of them appear to add a new generation of directors are required. We need people of integrity who have their feet on the ground, are alert to risks and the reality of what is happening around them, and who think for themselves.”

Adaptation has helped to improve the performance of over 100 boards. Coulson-Thomas' experience of local, regional and national public sector boards is that “many members devote much time to preparing for meetings and often engage in rigorous questioning that would be unusual in some private company boardrooms.”

Coulson-Thomas’ view is that “There is much that private sector boards can learn from the voluntary, public and professional sectors. It is possible to find people of integrity with directorial qualities and experience outside of the relatively narrow ranks of the City establishment and those who already have plc director experience.”

Adaptation's experience is that “In other walks of life, motivated citizens are giving considerable time, much of it unremunerated, to service upon boards that have a significant impact upon their fellow citizens. Many of them are displaying directorial qualities that would put some high profile directors of large corporations to shame. Most are committed and highly motivated to provide effective governance, and within the parallel dimensions in which they operate – whether charities or the public sector – significant effort may be devoted to ensuring their directorial knowledge and skills are kept up to date.”

Coulson-Thomas believes "nomination committees should broaden their investigations to embrace candidates from the voluntary, public and professional sectors that might bring greater diversity and fresh thinking into the boardroom.”

Directors of over 4,000 organisations have participated in Adaptations’ research programme which identifies what the most effective directors and boards do differently. The findings are summarised in two books ‘Developing Directors’ and ‘Winning Companies; Winning People" which can be ordered from:

Critical success factors for key corporate activities that have been identified are set out in 20 reports that are also published by Policy Publications. Lessons from the investigations are incorporated into twenty five courses for directors and information can be obtained from:

The 10th International Conference on Corporate Governance was organised by the World Council for Corporate Governance and held at the Royal Overseas League in London. The theme of the conference was "Re-energising corporate governance by realigning the moral compass of the boardroom".

Adaptation chairman Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas has served on public, voluntary and professional committees and boards, including as a Chairman and/or President. He has helped over 100 boards improve director, board and corporate performance and has spoken at over 200 conferences in 40 countries. He can be contacted via:

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Adaptation Ltd
Colin Coulson-Thomas

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