With unprecedented interest in corporate governance, the Chicago NACD Chapter panel of Holly Gregory, Fred Steingraber, Donna Zarcone and William Atwood addressed Changes in Regulation and Implications for Directors.
Panelist Fred Steingraber, former Chairman and CEO of AT Kearney and director of several US and several international boards, said the time for boards to react was over. Rather, boards should take a leadership position by demonstrating that they provide value through their oversight through transparency and better shareholder communication.
“Boards are in the midst of a very serious struggle to regain respect and control over their growing responsibilities and image,” said Steingraber. “To accomplish this will require demonstrating the will and capacity to make changes ranging from board organization/leadership, policy, process, committees, board composition to shareholder communications. They must now demonstrate leadership at the board level with a results orientation in the conduct of their work.
“Today, the government is taking control of boards, largely due to directors not building good relations with shareholders and all too frequently being too defensive and too reactive in their communication.”
Boards need to break their silence to retain and regain control rather than ceding authority to critics.
Not only do boards need to listen to shareholders to understand their concerns, but they also need to go beyond the derivative information that they normally receive to drill down to the underlying issues of business performance, said Steingraber. “Boards need to put together a longer term program that addresses the issues of succession planning and risk management. This will not happen overnight.” For that reason boards need to lead by creating a framework for change and communicate those changes, which will take place over time.