Last year's groundbreaking 2021 Mindful Exclusion Report which included feedback from over 300 company secretaries, directors and executives, showed us the prevalence of mindless decision-making in governance before COVID-19 and demonstrated how the experience of crisis had caused many organisations to become more mindful.
In this follow-up report, we explore how decision-making has changed in the past year, get more concrete in exploring the dividend of engaging in mindful practices and highlight specific trends and areas of concern that warrant attention for the year ahead.
To what extent is mindless exclusion distorting the governance of your organisation?
In the 2021 Mindful Exclusion Report, we used these questions to demonstrate that many boards and executive committees (ExCos) were operating in a bubble – i.e., their decision-making was distorted by what was familiar, comfortable and considered ‘impressive’ to those already around the boardroom table.
This year, we have attempted to get more concrete in articulating the mindful dividend by tracking financial performance, along with a few other indicators that are increasingly monitored at top tables. We have also used distinct names to identify boards and executive committees that engage in each of the three mindful practices – Scanners, Synergisers and Stewards – and included new survey questions to bring their profiles to life.
The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland believes that diverse viewpoints make for better boards. However, persuading boards to accept candidates from non-traditional backgrounds can be a struggle. We often hear that there are concerns about whether they are ‘board ready’ or ‘promotion ready’ or ‘senior enough’. Likewise, we see advertisements that require non-executive director candidates to have been CEO or CFO of a FTSE company, or state that a role has a ‘competitive salary’ but then ask what candidates are currently paid, which simply substitutes someone else’s valuation of an individual for one’s own.
It was in the context of our work on diversity that our journey with Justine Lutterodt and the Centre for Synchronous Leadership (CSL) began in summer 2019. We saw companies grappling with the desire to improve diversity without compromising performance and were drawn to the concept of Mindful Exclusion. The notion of ‘excluding better’ struck a chord.
In 2020, CSL conducted a quantitative survey using the Mindful Exclusion framework to explore these issues, and to understand what distinguished those who were coping well from those who were struggling with the volume and pace of change. During this same period, we found ourselves in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic which has, of course, affected many of these trends. A dramatic shift was required in a short space of time – in some cases accelerating change, in other cases causing delays. The survey was designed to capture the impact of this shift, given the implications for mindful decision making.
The results of this survey – which was completed by 310 company secretaries, board directors, and C-suite executives – have shaped this report. The coincidental timing of COVID-19 has given the findings an extra level of significance, as the future of governance is being actively shaped in response to our new circumstances.
This report provokes us all to get out of our bubbles (and avoid being ‘Bubble Bound’), notice our instinctive responses and reconsider whether the criteria that we use to make decisions are fit for purpose. In doing so, it makes an important contribution to the field of governance, supported by data and psychological insight, with practical implications.
The 2021 report is divided into 3 parts:
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