Much gets said, in the media and in the workplace about the importance of diversity in the Boardroom. I am very close to my fellow Directors but we are also very different people. For me it’s all about putting an opposing view and knowing it’ll be respected, trusting that your Board understands your diverse workforce and challenging the other board members when necessary. These are all vital elements for growing any business.
I would ask; how you can do this if your board members share the same lifestyle, come from the same background and have the same challenges in life?
Building a diverse Board and, equally important in my view, a diverse Senior Management team, is crucially important, and this is why:
Culture – our regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) takes an interest in company culture in general, and how an open culture is demonstrated by companies in particular. Setting a good example as a board will mean others will follow suit. If a Director is afraid to be challenged by the people that work for them, it erodes respect and calls into question their stewardship of the business. Don’t be afraid, embrace it. Encourage free thinkers, involve your wider team where you can and have the courage to make changes to, or defend policy as appropriate.
New thinking – new opportunities, new products and new ways of doing things flow more freely from a cohesive group of diverse personalities than from an echo chamber. It’s often the case that the most defining or creative ideas come from that special environment of different people with a common goal. While Team Sky was dominating professional cycling, they referred to this as ‘creative tension’. We nurture this, or something akin to it, as a board and use it to stay fresh and stay ahead.
Risk – there are studies that have shown that diversity in the board will help curb unnecessary risk. Working, as I do, with a close-knit Board, I totally agree with this idea. We are closely aligned on many issues, in life and in work, though we all work in very different ways and adopt different mindsets. This only serves to enhance the huge respect we have for each other and our wider teams which in turn, means that we are naturally risk-adverse, out of respect for ourselves and each of our colleagues.