Why prioritise external board assessments?

Several boards carry out an annual self-evaluation, or an online quantitative evaluation, every three years based on the need to express and show good and ethical board behaviour. However, this is not the way forward if you ask Richard Leblanc, researcher at York University in the journal "The Corporate Board". He  expresses that these simplified methods give an imperfect picture of the Board's work and efforts. Just as no one wants to assess a company simply on the basis of their accounts, one should not assess a Board of Directors based only on a quantified and outdated approach. If this method continues, Board evaluation can end up being a ritual tribal dance that adds no particular value to the company.

What should you pay attention to?

Board evaluations must not function as a tick in the compliance form. When basing your evaluation data from members' individual and biased understanding of what good board work is, you are taking the easy way out. One can quickly fall into a trap where the results become bland and the subsequent dialogue ends in a round of self-praise and self-glorification.

At Friisberg & Partners International, we specialize in Board Assessments. We go in-depth with a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods in the form of both online surveys, physical interviews and assessments. The data is used to uncover elements such as the Board's experience, their ability to collaborate & challenge each other and the management, collective knowledge and their professional competences. Bases on this data, the company's activities and the associated risks are analyzed along with the Board's work.

As an extra element in creating a truthful and in-depth evaluation, Friisberg & Partners Denmark recommends that the Management assesses the Board in addition to the Board's own self-assessment. Based on the full evaluation and the subsequent reporting, the Board has the opportunity to uncover the potential to become a better strategic player that matches and supports the Executive Board.

Overall, it is absolutely central to the utilization of the potential in an evaluation that the focus is not only on documenting the results achieved, but is seen as a resource for developing the Board; both in relation to current changes or future routines, structural conditions & long term knowledge building.

Why Board evaluations are important

At Friisberg & Partners International, there is broad agreement that there is a correlation between external Board assessments and improved management quality. Board evaluations contribute to identifying strengths and weaknesses in the Board's functioning, which makes it possible to improve decision-making processes and strategic management. Furthermore, the evaluations contribute to an objective assessment of the Board's composition, working methods and efficiency. It promotes open dialogue and reflection on the Board's performance, which contributes to higher professional accountability.

As an additions service offering, Friisberg & Partners includes a targeted development and action plan as a part of our final report.  This can lead to higher levels of engagement and performance.


Meet our next global Chair, Zoltan Petho

Every four years, our senior partners elect one of their peers to serve as our global Chair. The role plays an important part in shaping the strategic direction of Friisberg & Partners International. Zoltan Petho has been elected as our next Chair from July 1 2021. He will follow in some impressive footsteps since our 1977 foundation. In his previous role as Friisberg’s Chief International Business Development and Quality Officer he has worked closely with colleagues in all of our 40+ offices around the world, focusing on expanding our capabilities while ensuring we continued to answer our clients’ most urgent needs amid times of rapid upheaval.

People describe you as outgoing, proactive, and a genuine people-person. Is that how you would describe yourself?

Well, I think it is better that I leave it for others to describe me as they see me! One of our biggest assets is most definitely our people and I like communicating with people. It is essential that our ideas and strategy are not just words, but brought to life and evidential in our daily work. Here I feel my personality means I make sure things happen.

You’re about to step into a hugely demanding role. What three things are you looking forward to the most?

There is no doubt that expectations are high following our former Chair, Peter Strandberg who led our firm for 8 years. The support I have received from Partners has been outstanding and the opportunity to help direct Friisberg’s future, energizes me very much.

You have mentioned that you are supported by an elected board of directors, known as the Executive, consisting of four senior partners. How do you feel you will work together to set the strategic direction and policies of the firm?

Yes, it is great to have the support of our senior Partners in the Executive Committee. I have known them for a long a time and have worked with them quite often over a number of years. I really count on them for their input, and their opinions – and more importantly I really enjoy working with them. It is worth noting that the elected Board are all women and we pride ourselves on our gender parity throughout Friisberg.

Diversity within Friisberg is part of our daily life. More than 50% of our Partners are women and in the Executive Committee I am the only male. So, when we talk about diversity with our Clients, it is something we can show we understand. Diversity is always a top propriety for our clients - especially in those countries, Germany or in Scandinavia, where there is legislation in place to ensure Boards must operate in terms of diversity.

How do you think our profession needs to evolve?

Well, although we have found ourselves in a challenging situation during the pandemic. I am proud that four of our offices have experienced significant growth during 2020. This highlights the strength of our Partners and how we support our clients, not only as a search firm, but as trusted advisors.

I am very positive about our future as we are an agile firm and are able to adapt to a changing environment and new requirements from our Clients. This approach enables us to quickly implement new technologies, to achieve success in newly born sectors (greenergy, e-mobility, etc) and on the other side also support our traditional family-owned businesses.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Being a Partner and Chair of Friisberg requires lots of energy, enthusiasm and passion as well as my times. I try to spend as much time as possible with my family, I like gardening, sport and I am also an enthusiastic Formula 1 fan.

The constant struggle to find the balance between ‘the talk’ and ‘the walk’.

There is often a discrepancy between initial outspoken enthusiastic support for an idea, ‘the talk’ compared with the actual follow through – ‘the walk’.

Most of us will have heard convincing presentations regarding visions, strategies, clearly defined projects, actions, and willingly, cheerfully, in chorus, agreed to work towards the temptingly described goals:

“Yes we can! Yes we will! Let´s do this!”

We have seen this in several organizations, heard about it from even more, and experienced it ourselves having been infected with the warm fuzzy feeling of the unanimous ‘Team Pledge’.

But, when reality kicks in and we realize this is actually going to necessitate considerable time and effort, the contagious team spirit that made us so determined and willing to sign up, bit by bit disappears…it simply fades away. Of course we all know what we should do, but all too often we hesitate, we do not prioritize - we make excuses. Our previous ‘total commitment’ is in the end, and at best, stored under ‘Happy Shared Moments’, or at worst never spoken about again.

It has long been a challenge for each and one of us to actively (not only in words) support and stand behind agreed visions, strategies, clearly defined projects, actions etc - to make it happen!

Our virtual existence comes with many benefits, indeed online meetings are often a great forum for sharing ideas and creating impressive strategic campaigns, but we have noticed that since the pandemic many people actually have less time to follow through– they are simply trapped behind the screen, too occupied in online meetings to even find the time to eat!

As we increasingly ‘talk the talk’ paradoxically many of us have less time to ‘walk the walk’ and our brilliant strategic plans become little more than ephemeral blue sky thinking…

While we all miss our daily in-person interactions, perhaps they are more important that we ever realized in ensuring our shared and agreed upon ideas actually become reality.

Share with us your tips of how you find the balance between the 'talk' and 'walk'.

We will be waiting behind our screens...

Contact us

Michael Karlsson
Michael Rooslien
Partners, Sweden

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