How CECOs Need to Reframe Narratives to Serve on Boards: The E&C Pulse - November 20, 2019

November 20, 2019
Ben DiPietro

Nov. 20, 2019

CECOs Need to Reframe Narratives to Serve on Boards 


LRN hosted a forum of about 20 chief ethics and compliance officers, five of whom serve on the boards of publicly traded companies. The discussion last week centered around ways CECOs can build networks and develop the connections and the experience to help position themselves for board service, and highlighted the value that CECOs can bring to board discussion and decision-making.


Among the key takeaways from the event: CECOs should not think of themselves as just a chief compliance officer; rather, they should spotlight their expertise managing risk; handling crises; forging corporate culture; developing and delivering learning and communications; and influencing human behavior in companies.


As one of the board members told the gathering: No board is going to say, “We should bring a compliance officer on to the board.” But they will look favorably upon a candidate who can show them real-world experience in assessing and mitigating risks. It’s about how the skillsets of the CECO are positioned.


That ties into being open and accepting of assignments that expand a portfolio beyond compliance. Take on issues related to enterprise risk management; environmental, social, governance, and sustainability. This increases your importance, and gives you additional opportunities to add value.


“Being associated with risk management, overseas risk management, that translates into what a boards needs and understands,” said one director.


Before undergoing the process of applying and interviewing for a board seat, and before enlisting the support of the chief executive and other company executives, make sure the job of being a director one you really want. It is hard work, requires long hours at times, and is one that requires the courage to raise uncomfortable issues.


If all signs are go, then activate your network. Let people know you are interested in board service. Look to serve on boards of private companies, or non-profits, where you may network with board members of publicly traded companies. But make sure you are ready and able to do the necessary work for those organizations, as service on a private company or non-profit board is much different than corporate board service.


Also, think about board positions in emerging industries such as cannabis, cryptocurrency, and gaming, as these companies are addressing risks that are very relevant to the experiences of CECOs.


Executives from two search firms who participated in the forum both emphasized networks--who you know, who you can meet, and who will speak strongly on your behalf--as being by far the most important routes to board positions. “People like to help. Reach out,” said one of the directors. “Talk to people you know. Ask who they can introduce you to.”


One of the upsides of serving on a board is all five directors said they have become better executives because of the experience, in large part because they understand how to get to the heart of issues that matter to board members.


As directors, CECOs said they better understand how their home company board thinks, acts, and metabolizes information, and all said they are better executives for learning how to think like directors.


“It makes me better as a CECO,” said another board member. “How I present, the words I use are very different, how I interact with my CEO. It’s changed me for the better.”


Said another: “There’s no better executive development program than serving on a board. You see everything, you get to flex all of your muscles.”



                                                                                                            BEN DIPIETRO




This week LRN's Ben DiPietro talks with Alexandre di Miceli about behavioral ethics, and what companies can do to enlist employees to behave better.





A new study identifies generational differences in perceptions of workplace harassment. What does that mean for companies?






ECI's Global Business Ethics Survey found 62% of respondents said workplace retaliation takes the form of being ignored by coworkers, 54% said they received unfavorable work assignments, while 52% said they were passed over for raises and promotions. 




The number of whistleblower tips to the SEC dropped for the first time since the program started, Risk & Compliance Journal reports. Reuters reports the agency is rethinking proposed changes to rules opposed by whistleblower advocates.


Google is facing questions of trust after a Wall Street Journal report disclosed the company was collecting medical information on millions of people. Google employees protested what they call a retaliatory investigation into two employees.


Alstom SA compliance officer Barbara Petitti talks to WSJ about how the company overcame compliance fatigue to improve the corporate culture.


The Bank of England told some of the country's insurers to improve their workplace cultures after reports of intimidation, Guardian reports.


Companies are filing lawsuits against California for its law mandating they have at least one woman board member by the start of 2020, Axios reports.


Ethics and compliance executive Joel Katz writes on LinkedIn with the first five of 10 questions about the compliance program every board needs to ask. Patricia Lenkov writes in Forbes about the real qualifications needed on a board.


BSR is out with a report looking at the state of sustainable business in 2019. Alison Taylor writes in Risk Management Magazine about aligning sustainability and risk management.


Pushan Dutt, professor of economics and political science at INSEAD, writes about the need for companies to move past virtuous talk and to take concrete actions to bring about better corporate responsibility.


Why do good people do bad things? One professor points to ethical blindness.


Nextgov looks at how automation may lead to better ethics and compliance.


Transparency International says the reputation of good governance and business integrity among the Nordic countries is being challenged, Local reports.



"Don't explain your philosophy. Embody it.”

- Epictetus, Greek philosopher



Check out this NYT article featuring LRN's Michael Del Polito talking about making engaging, award-winning training videos.



About the Author

Ben DiPietro

Joined LRN in October 2018 after 30 years as a journalist, including seven years at The Wall Street Journal, including Risk & Compliance Journal and was a creator of the WSJ Crisis of the Week column. In 2015 was named one of the 100 most influential people in business ethics by Ethisphere Institute. Spent 14 years as a reporter in Hawaii, 11 with The Associated Press.

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