Archive for the ‘Board of Directors’ Category

Service of How Do They Do It: The Do-Nothings Who Land On Top

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Photo: cnafinance.com

Photo: cnafinance.com

I dedicate this post to a friend who works herself to the bone, achieves great things to benefit others both on and off boards of prominent organizations and who coined the name “do-nothings” in a recent conversation about a project we’re both involved with.

I’ve been on and around boards for years, a previous member of co-op, three industry and three not for profit boards and on countless committees that depend on board member support. The do-nothings who are consistently invited back to direct or support projects are the ones that puzzle me because they hold things up. Do-nothings populate them all.

Do nothing 1There are exceptions: Some work smart and hard and do spectacular jobs with miraculous results but frequently it is they who are tossed to the side without a second thought. The do-nothings, with hearty pledges for follow up information and tempting inflated promises that all come to naught are consistently invited back!

In addition to “life isn’t fair,” I know what you’re thinking: The do-nothings have connections or big bucks. Not always so!  In addition to bankrupt elbow grease, some bring to the table neither access to financial support nor prestige. What they do accomplish: They waste other people’s time.

As incoming president I started to attend committee meetings of one organization to see if there were any outstanding people I’d want on my board. This was the suggestion of a past president. I told a trusted colleague that so-and-so stood out with great ideas and energy. The trusted colleague warned, “Hot air. She talks a good game and never comes through.” I realized how easy it is to be duped.

What is the do-nothings’ secret? Why do boards–or managers or bosses–tolerate them especially if they contribute neither stature nor funds, only agita? How do the do-nothings live with themselves and dare to accept responsibilities they never fulfill?

Do nothing 2

 

Service of You Can Run But You Can’t Hide

Monday, March 24th, 2014

man with blndersCar with blinders on

I am breaking my rule not to mention brand names when addressing negative issues because of the size of the companies involved, the flagrant lack of concern for customer safety and the fact that this approach appears to be increasingly acceptable.

General Motors, Toyota and Target have been in the news not for their product launches and retailing innovations but because they sat on negative information of utmost importance to their customers resulting, in the case of the auto manufacturers, in death.

GM waited years before admitting to problems with ignition switches in potentially 1.6 million Chevy Cobalts. Some 12 people died as a result. I don’t know how many were injured.

Toyota hid information about sticking pedals causing cars to zoom ahead uncontrollably. They also kept mum about floor mats that interfered with acceleration. Both malfunctions caused injuries and deaths.

credit card at retailOn November 27th, two days before Black Friday and almost a month before Christmas, Target learned about the breach of its in-store credit card terminals affecting some 40 million and waited for weeks, until mid December, to own up to the disaster. I wouldn’t again charge a toothpick in this store–which I like–and I don’t carry much cash. A few years ago I was sent a new credit card immediately when TJ Maxx discovered credit card violations. These things happen and will increasingly. The prompt and seamless handling gave me more confidence in that brand.

I can hear the chorus from readers: “GREED made them do it.” But who is advising these businesses? Damage is so much worse when you don’t admit to wrong doing, causing more harm and dragging out the story so increasing numbers of people are adversely affected and more hear about it.

Why do executives, time and again, think that they will be the ones to make these problems go away before anyone notices? If they fear assault on their reputations once a disaster occurs, don’t they realize that by trying to hide they are only growing the circumference of their black eyes? Are immediate profits more important than reputations and conducting business responsibly because people count on the public’s microscopic memory?

dog with black eye

 

Service of Board Service

Monday, May 16th, 2011

board-of-directors

My friend Erica Martell urged me to read about the City University of New York’s board of trustees and its reversal about giving playwright Tony Kushner an honorary degree. First the board voted no. Subsequently the executive committee voted yes.

I read the coverage in The New York Times that Erica sent and The Wall Street Journal and finally a New York Sun editorial. The short story: Kushner was being proposed for a doctor of letters at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Right before the vote, a member of the 17-member board, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, objected to his receiving the honor based on what he described as Kushner’s attacks on Israel.

counterpunchAfter the 6-member executive committee reversed the board’s decision, Winnie Hu in The New York Times wrote: “After the vote to approve the degree, Dr. [Matthew] Goldstein, CUNY’s chancellor, said ‘the basic misstep was there wasn’t a counterpunch’ to Mr. Wiesenfeld’s remarks.

“I’m not sure why the appropriate people didn’t chime in at that time,” he said. Dr. Goldstein, who was present at that meeting, said the presidents of the various colleges are generally expected to address specific questions.”

Translation: Somebody put Kushner on the list. Why didn’t he/she speak up?

Hu noted: “Mr. Kushner later disputed Mr. Wiesenfeld’s characterization of his views and said he is a strong supporter of Israel’s right to exist.”

In The Wall Street Journal Ruth King quoted Benno Schmidt, the president of the board of trustees: “‘I would not ordinarily ask for reconsideration of a decision so recently taken,’ said Mr. Schmidt, who was once president of Yale. ‘But when the board has made a mistake of principle and not merely of policy, review is appropriate and, indeed, mandatory. As it happens, Chairperson Schmidt was on hand when this ‘mistake of principle’ was made but didn’t raise a voice at the time.”

An excerpt from a New York Sun editorial: “But if principles are the issue here, what is the logic of the decision of a full board of trustees being overturned a few days later by a subset of the trustees?

“So far it looks as if the only person who has acted on principle in the CUNY affair is Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the trustee who first objected to the idea of giving an honorary degree to Mr. Kushner. He came to a meeting, and he stated his objection forthrightly. It had to do with Mr. Kushner’s views in respect of Israel. Mr. Kushner is entitled to his views and Mr. Wiesenfeld is entitled to dissent from a proposal to give him an honorary degree. The whole thing was filmed and is available at a CUNY Web site. Mr. Wiesenfeld comprehended he was making a dissident statement. Our guess is that he was as surprised as anyone when the trustees acted on his objection.”

decisionmakingI think that what happened is not as much about whether a person accused of speaking out against a foreign country should be given or denied an award by a New York City university as it is about how boards work. It’s typical of what I’ve observed as a board member. I’ve been on many–industry, charity and co-op apartment boards. Many board members sit like lumps. Are they afraid to speak out? I have not always been popular as a result but feel that my job is to point out hurdles or issues for the board’s consideration. For that reason, I commend Mr. Wiesenfeld for stating his view and wonder about the other board members. Not all of them agreed with him, as it turns out. They didn’t want to face him with their argument.

Who are the villains here? Did anyone do anything right?  Why do people take the time to sit on boards if they don’t plan to participate? Do those who bring up touchy subjects risk being treated like whistleblowers? What is it about a board that seems to stifle discussion?

 speak-out

Get This Blog Emailed to You:
Enter your Email


Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Clicky Web Analytics