Friday, 8 January 2010

"What's the difference between a supermarket trolley and a non executive director?

Whilst both hold a vast quantity of food and drink, only the trolley has a mind of its own” (T.P. Blenkin)

T.P. Blenkin appears to be a Yorkshireman who is a cricket nut and given the excitement of the Third Test in South Africa this week that puts him in my good books but it’s this great aphorism that makes his reputation because, like a great Shane Warne leg break, it leaves those of us who’ve served as NEDs groping sightlessly.

In many respects being a non executive or a Trustee is a mug’s game. You don’t have the time or the proximity to the action really to smell what’s going on. You apply your best critical judgement but are also trying to motivate those in the front line to do better and feel good about themselves.

It’s a critical balance between being too nice and too nasty. I’ve seen NEDs apply the “I put their feet to the fire” principle and turn a competent executive into a quivering wreck. But NEDs at various banks and struggling companies like ITV or BA must wonder what hit them recently. Was that moderate remuneration worth that loss of reputation?

So I anticipate a new breed of Rottweiler non execs. and a consequent growing pressure on executives to justify virtually all they do. And I don’t see too much food and drink for anyone.
It’ll be just a basket with under five items most of which will be energy drinks to keep them awake so they're able to read all those documents.

“Mind of my own…I’ll show ‘em…Gentlemen. I’d like to revisit our strategy again just to be sure it still stands up to inquisition given changing market conditions”.


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