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Board and Leadership

Understanding Your Role Is Key to Being an Effective Board Director

Understanding Your Role Is Key to Being an Effective Board Director

As the corporate governance environment continues to evolve, Nasdaq Governance Solutions is committed to evolving with it. In 2019, Nasdaq acquired the Center for Board Excellence, expanding its suite of solutions and providing organizations with more tools—and people—to help them drive governance excellence.

Today, the board engagement team plays an integral role in helping boards and leadership teams simplify governance and compliance evaluation processes, identifying growth opportunities for boards, and turning director feedback into strategic action. With years of insight and expertise, they have become an invaluable part of the Nasdaq Governance Solutions business.

James Beasley, Senior Director and Head of Board Engagement in the EMEA region at Nasdaq

We hear from James Beasley, Senior Director and Head of Board Engagement in the EMEA region at Nasdaq, who speaks to his experience.

Tell us about your role on the Nasdaq Governance Solutions board engagement team. What are your goals?

My role is to support boards and leadership teams by providing corporate governance insights, perspectives and services. I work closely with clients to deliver board evaluations and leadership and independence assessments. I also author thought leadership articles and speak at events. I sit within the Nasdaq Governance Solutions business, which plays a key role in Nasdaq’s active promotion of good governance practices internationally. My goal is to embed the business as a regional leader in governance excellence through the combination of technology platforms and subject matter expertise and to be an invaluable partner to dynamic organizations that share our values and goals.

What lens do you take when advising boards and leadership teams on governance matters?

I am very fortunate that most of my career has been focused not only on the review of board and governance effectiveness but also on the design and implementation of effective governance frameworks. This means that my recommendations and suggested actions are always grounded in a strong understanding of the value they might add, as well as the challenges organizations might face in tracking and meeting them. My experience helps organizations along their effectiveness journeys in an achievable and measurable way, without overburdening their boards and leadership teams.

What governance themes or trends do you expect to be in focus this year?

There may be too many to choose from! Of course, the last 12-18 months have had a big impact on the way boards operate and how they interact with management, employees and wider stakeholder groups. I think we will see many of the ‘lessons learned’ incorporated into practices going forward, even as we return to ‘normal.’ Overall, I expect we will see a considerable focus on embedding diversity and inclusion, ESG and workforce engagement into organizations’ visions, values, strategies, cultures and risk oversight responsibilities.

Why should companies at every stage of the business life cycle think about board effectiveness?

Board effectiveness tends to be thought about in a cyclical way, whether it is an annual or tri-annual review cycle or otherwise aligned to the business life cycle and level of maturity of each organization. I find that dynamic boards recognize the value that is consistently challenging themselves on their own performance can bring value to organizations and their stakeholders—and new practices are emerging to continually generate and lock in that value. Effective leadership is not a cyclical requirement, but embedding a culture of ongoing self-reflection and improvement means the ‘tone from the top’ has substance.

What is one piece of advice you always share with the directors you work with?

Clarity on role is key. Whether executive or non-executive, understanding the part you play on the board is crucial to being an effective member. This is particularly important for less-experienced directors as the transition may be a challenge. A consistent area for board development involves non-executives ‘overstepping the line’ into management territory or executive directors not being clear on what wearing the director ‘hat’ entails. Uncertainty around boundaries and responsibilities can have a real impact throughout the organization, including on management relations and the wider culture.

Learn more about how the board engagement team delivers value to boards and leadership teams through qualitative and quantitative evaluation and corporate governance services.

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Nasdaq Governance Solutions serves boards and leadership teams with a comprehensive suite of governance tools.

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