Why every company needs to conduct a Board assessment review

Why every company needs to conduct a Board assessment review

Do you regularly conduct a board assessment review of the capability of your Directors? 

Industry experience? Tick. Gender quotient? Tick. Taste for lamingtons? Tick. 

Unfortunately, we’ve found too many Board Members across Australia are appointed on a blasé tick-box process, without any regard for their skillset nor any objective assessment of their capability. We call this these people the ‘lamington eaters’. They show up, eat the lamingtons and then leave.

The result? 

Companies lack strategic thought. Tick. 

There’s a failure to challenge management. Tick. 

Some Board Members are unable to present thoughtful arguments. Tick. 

Few important stakeholders are prepared to advocate for the business. Tick. 

You end up with a Board that can’t add value to the organisation.

A shallow pool

Australia has a relatively small Board market compared to the rest of the world. The community is tight, they talk a lot, they share offices, and it can be very hard for new people to break in. 

As such, a pervasive ‘referral culture’ has developed, meaning Australian Boards are often comprised of friends of existing Board members, and objectively qualified people are passed over. 

Combine that ‘mates of mates’ attitude with a ‘tick box’ approach and very few Boards are able to develop real independence of mind, we’d argue is a pretty key feature of an effective Board.

We think the Australian Institute of Company Directors sums it up pretty well: 

“Just relying on the contacts of exiting directors has been identified as a major reason for the historic lack of diversity of many boards of major companies.”

So how do we begin assessing the capabilities of Directors?

Creating objective BOARD assessment REVIEWS

Sure, skills and experience are valuable pieces, but they aren’t the whole puzzle. 

To conduct an effective Board assessment review, you need to expand your matrix beyond experience to include capability, style and motivation. 


Do they have Board level skills such developing strategy, risk management, stakeholder engagement, financial analysis, decision-making, workplace health and safety, people and culture development?


Are they a good listener? Are they confident and calm? Do they communicate constructively and succinctly? Can they challenge the status quo? Do they show humility? Are they an effective team player?


Why are they here? Are their motivations aligned to the organisation’s purpose? Or are they focused on their own personal gain? 

Of course, experience is useful. But discovering whether someone is humble and can learn quickly will often give your Board a powerful new voice and offer new insights. 

Including an assessment phase when selecting a new board member is essential. A task that helps tackle the bias on appointment and levels the playing field. 

This checklist is not only helpful when hiring new Board Members: it’s also critical to use to constantly reassess who you have in place. 

Remember, ‘lamington eaters’ – or those who are coasting along – are often difficult to spot, so ensuring you regularly assess everyone’s capabilities will allow the whole Board to better do its job. 

About Sterling Black

Sterling Black is a specialist Board and CEO leadership firm. With over 25 years’ experience we give clear recommendations on whether your current leaders are, or can be the leaders you need. We help Boards build the capability to deliver on their vision and plan for expected or unexpected CEO events. We understand how to get CEOs to engage with a development process, how experienced executives best receive feedback and how adults learn.

Contact us today for a confidential discussion.

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