Non-executives must hold management to account—but there are also times when they should give unstinting support.
The non-executive role is one of oversight, but equally a good non-executive really cannot afford to be aloof. Hitting the right balance in the role is never easy.
I was reminded of this dilemma when I found myself defending management actions against the rest of my non-executive colleagues. In a somewhat strained exchange, one of the non-execs said: “Surely you knew about this?”
Those few words crossed a rubicon. I was in effect being suspected of a cover-up in defence of the management. My relationship with the rest of the board was very difficult from then on and never did totally recover.
At the time, I was non-executive of a
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