Well, I would say you should re-appoint your last evaluator, wouldn’t I? As long as it is EquityCommunications! Actually, not always. We are often re-appointed, but sometimes not and I really think there are pros and cons for both.
When should you not re-appoint your last external evaluator?
- If the previous experience was unsatisfactory. By which I mean, the team failed to get the best out of your Board, did not try to ‘tap into’ the Board’s character, or understand the journey the company and the Board had been on. Or, they simply didn’t deliver any meaningful feedback, action points or suggestions.
- If you encountered an inflexible approach. We believe that, subject to covering off all the ‘essentials’ and most of the ‘desirables’ in governance terms, each Board deserves an individual and flexible approach. It is not our evaluation, it is yours. So, if you want an element adding in, we believe it should be accommodated.
- If you felt that you had been through a mass-produced exercise. Board evaluations come in many forms. An ‘off the shelf’ template is not our style and if you feel that last time, you were shoe-horned into a template that didn’t fit, or the words felt generic, don’t go back.
- If you feel it was not good value for your time and money. This may seem obvious, but the end result of your evaluation, into which your company and Board have invested cash and time, is not dependent on the profile or business accommodation of the evaluator. It is all about experience. At the end of the evaluation, you should feel you have been engaging with a team that has experience and can bring that to your evaluation.
- If you, and the Board, feel they need a fresh approach for specific reasons. We are often re-appointed after a gap, in which another evaluation team had been selected – and we think that is also healthy.
And when should you re-appoint? In many cases, it is the flip-side of the above.
- Whilst our philosophy is 90% about looking forward, it is also 10% about knowing where you have been and therefore, what has led to the pathway your Board is now on. If the last evaluator has demonstrated understanding of your history, and worked with you in the past, there is a lot to be said for re-appointment.
- If you felt that your Board and the evaluating team gelled. This is not to say all the messages will be easy. But if the evaluator is empathetic and looking for the positives, difficult messages will be conveyed with tact and teamed with positive actions that you can consider to address them.
- If the exercise fitted in with your team and was efficient in terms of the demands placed on the Board, the Chair and also the often hard-pressed Co Sec team.
- If you feel that future evaluations can evolve with the same team. For example, we will always vary our approach and also create a brand new framework, for clients with whom we last worked 3 or 6 years ago. You will have evolved. Therefore, so must your Board’s evaluation.
- If the Board enjoyed – or at least did not actively dislike – the process. We are always acutely aware that we are there to create a channel to allow a flow of information and views for the Board. We often hear (and sometimes this is expressed with some surprise) that Board members enjoyed taking part in our evaluations. We think that is because we demonstrate that the framework is specific to their Board (not a template); that we create a safe space to have a candid conversation; and that we recognise each Board member for what she or he is: an individual.
- And finally, if the result was useful, honest and realistic.