The controversy unearthed in 2018 surrounding large consulting firms teetering on the conflict of interest edge with their mates in banking has certainly raised eyebrows in many circles. It’s left me baffled, that’s for sure, and reflecting on how I know there is something very wrong with this picture.
My first ever ‘real’ job was as a magazine journalist. While pretty scrappy, I could write some serviceable copy that was informative, but often missed the mark on delivering a truly engaging article. After a couple of years hard work, I ended up being promoted to editor and this is where things started to fall into place. I discovered that I was far better at refining someone else’s raw copy, which concurrently shed light on the journalist/editor relationship and my greater understanding of publishing.
Learning to appreciate that division of tasks and skill will lead you to a higher quality outcome has stuck with me throughout my career. Of note is with my work on boards, where I’ve learned to value the contributions of my non-executive directors when in a CEO role. As CEO, I may have the vision for the company and be hands-on as a day-to-day executive, but I still rely on others. I need people I respect from diverse backgrounds to offer me sound, objective advice to calibrate with on a regular basis to ensure rigour on key business decisions.
Equally, when I find myself in boardrooms as a non-executive director, I’m able to slot into that impartial persona because I’m not as attached to the work behind the business case. This gives me greater power to probe with objectivity and a broader vision, arming the company’s executive team with additional considerations from their proposed activities. It’s funny, when you remove the benefit of being ‘right’ and personal agenda goes out the window, objectivity reigns and forms a critical part of acting in this non-executive capacity.