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Board reviews: how to make board effectiveness reviews effective, with Dr Sabine Dembkowski

🎙️ You can listen to the full podcast interview with Dr Dembkowski on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Dr Dembkowski has led board reviews for firms across the FTSE 100 and DAX amongst others, and her academic work on the subject is internationally recognised and peer-reviewed. Tune in to her conversation with Nurole CEO Oliver Cummings to hear her thoughts on:

  • Why do a board review? (1:38)
  • Are private companies less inclined to board review, and if so, why? (4:29)
  • What do you say to those who think board reviews are ineffective and overpriced? (6:29)
  • Where do boards most commonly go wrong with reviews? (8:39)
  • What is the most important data to capture in board reviews?  (12:58)
  • Given the impossibility of an A|B test, how do we know what “effective” looks like? (14:27)
  • What are the key factors that go to your definition of board effectiveness? (18:39)
  • What characteristics do the worst boards have in common? (25:47)
  • Should we review individuals or the board as a whole? (27:21)
  • What can boards do to better implement feedback? (28:56)
  • Should board reviews look at the board’s ability to undertake specific tasks like hiring and firing the CEO? (31:05)
  • How valuable do you think observers are for making boards more effective?  (33:35)
  • What aspects of board reviews are you sceptical about? (36:03) and
  • ⚡The Lightning Round ⚡(37:26)   

*This is an AI-generated transcript and contains inaccuracies*

Oliver Cummings: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of Enter the Boardroom with Neurol, the business podcast that brings the boardroom to you. I'm your host, Oliver Cummings, CEO of Neurol, the board search specialist and market leader, bringing science to the art of board hiring.

Today's guest, Dr. Sabina Dempkowski is a trusted board advisor who has worked with and alongside companies listed on the FTSE and DAX, global organizations and leading private equity and professional service firms.

Her research into board effectiveness has been peer reviewed and published internationally. With a PhD in business management, Dr. Sabina has established two successful businesses, the Coaching Center and Better Boards. 

Alongside her academic qualifications and business acumen, Sabina is a trained executive coach and certified to perform a wide range of psychometric tests. She is also host of the Better Boards podcast. Dr. Demkowski, a huge welcome and thank you so much for joining us today. 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: Well, it's a pleasure to be here.

Oliver Cummings: So, board reviews come [00:01:00] up regularly in the mastermind groups that we host, where we bring non executives together to discuss the challenges they face in the boardrooms, and often it's the solution offered by board members to one another to a lot of their problems. So, I'm really interested just to start, given that this is your area of expertise, with the question of why do a board review?

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: They certainly have become a lot more popular in the last years. I think we see a great rise, not only in the UK, but around the globe. And I think it has to do with, one reason is, of course, the corporate governance codes that very often state that you should do a fully facilitated external board evaluation every three years and then internal evaluation in the years in between.

It's also down to the rise of ESG. The G is governance. Yeah, I think governance [00:02:00] has become a lot more to the fore. Look, every country has its own fair share of scandals. There's no reason for one country to point to another. I mean, Germany has had a fair share with Wirecard, Volkswagen, the UK lately with Patisserie, Valerie.

The US, I mean, in every country there, there are issues. So I think governance has risen in importance for investors. But also for the general public. I think a lot of things are a lot more transparent. What you could easily hide some decades ago, it's now a lot more difficult. With media, with social media.

And this transparency hasn't stopped in front of the doors of the boardroom. Yeah it, it has also entered the boardrooms. So, boards are really under a lot of pressure. [00:03:00] It's, it's enormous. It's not anymore this nice lunches, and let's discuss a little bit over a bottle of Chablis the strategy. It has become a lot more complex.

There is a great variety on, on topics they are dealing with. And they can only deal with this vast amount of topics. I mean, just think the last years. Supply chain issues due to the war, price increases inflation cost of living crisis environmental issues, digitalization, cyber security. I mean, it's a huge list of of issues.

You can only deal with it if the board is effective. An ineffective board does not have a chance to cut through all these topics and, and add value.

Oliver Cummings: I will often hear board members on listed companies and maybe in the charity and Government or regulated space are the [00:04:00] ones that I most Commonly come across board doing board reviews and often it feels like that's because they have to Or they feel a pressure for one reason or another whereas it's less common to hear of private or investor backed businesses or family owned businesses to do these.

Is that consistent with Your experience. And so why, why is that? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: The way it is determined by the corporate governance code where it's clearly stated, we see a greater uptake. There is no doubt about this. It's changing slowly. I think private equity firms are starting to look more into this issue.

Many, many years ago I have written an article and argued that board effectiveness is an often overlooked lever in the value creation process. 

Every private equity firm, they have a toolkit, everyone is pretty much doing the [00:05:00] same. Everyone. And I think we only see now with some more progressive private equity firms who, who have created positions like a portfolio development director or something like this, that these firms are starting to look into the issue.

What can we do? How can we get greater value from boards? What do we have to change in our practices? We also see that more large private companies are looking into the issue and that is more under the aspect we want to develop, yeah? That is more for the more curious chairs who are ambitious. And who don't want to leave any coin unturned in order to become better, higher performing, more effective.

Oliver Cummings: A view I sometimes hear expressed by board members is, Oh gosh, we've got to do one of these board reviews. Exactly. Where we basically, you know, have to tick a bunch of boxes and get told what we already know. And [00:06:00] pay an extortionate amount. For it and it's just no value whatsoever. What's your reaction when you hear someone expressing that view?

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I heard it many, many times, and I'm all too aware of it. And it is, it is sadly true. Yeah, the nobody likes doing board evaluations. It's like eating cabbage before you can get to something more appealing. And it, it is due to that a lot of board evaluations, let's face it, have not created value.

Yeah, they have basically told them what they already know. A lot of digital platforms are very static. They basically let you tick boxes frankly, mostly around the structures of, of the board work, of the processes of the board work. Have you done that? Have you done that? Have you done that? 

And let's face it, most of the listed companies have of course read the [00:07:00] corporate governance code and have put all the required structures and processes in place.

So, I think. We see a shift. We try to do things slightly differently in order to add value. But more has to be done to really deliver value. It has to do with what you ask, but also how you ask, how you overcome these preconceptions. It's about delivering real value, insights for the group, for every individual director.

That they really understand here is what we can do differently to have a greater impact, to make a greater contribution to performance and effectiveness, but with standard board evaluations, a simple interview, a simple observation, a simple static questionnaire, it's very, very hard to deliver real value.

Oliver Cummings: It feels to me like, and I think there's [00:08:00] data supporting this, that most boards are ineffective. And I guess there are probably two possible reasons for that. Either it's that the board model itself. Is ineffective or it's the way that people are implementing the board model is ineffective And and so I suppose if you believe that the board model is effective And I think there is a there are some who would challenge that I certainly have question marks from time to time.

But if you do believe that is effective, then I guess a board effectiveness review, a good one, is the way to go about, you know, moving it from, from being ineffective to effective. What do you see boards most commonly going wrong when they're doing their reviews? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I know both arguments. Is this model still the right one? I do believe It can add great value if, if done correctly. Yeah? Boards as, as well as board evaluations. 

What do I see most commonly going [00:09:00] wrong? Look, if you want to do a really good board evaluation, there are a couple of things you really have to listen. Yeah? And take a lot of notes during these interviews.

And really make sure when you write up these interviews, That you integrate all perspectives on the board, not just a dominant voice. And that you write it up in a neutral way, really just what you heard, rather than an interpretation, your own opinion etc. Stage one is just Let's put all the facts, the perspectives on the table.

So, and we have analyzed a lot of, of these reports that were given to us by our clients who said, look, this, this is what happened in the last evaluation. This is why it went wrong. A typical mistake is that evaluators put in too quickly their own [00:10:00] interpretation and their subjective opinion. Second is that they are eager to add value.

They want to say something. So if they hear a perspective of an outlier voice, Yeah, they give this which is, might be interesting, but this outlier voice can easily then dominate a report and create a completely wrong picture. This is not the majority view. It's an outlier voice, which is very often in these reports, then not clearly labeled.

The other thing is, I think there's too much subjectivity in the process. There isn't enough data, yeah and that is something we see in academia, that is something we, we see also in a lot of board evaluation processes. It's a, it's a very fragmented industry, lots of providers. Everyone has their methodology.[00:11:00] 

Now everyone is trying to develop their digital tool that will lead to that no one has data. Again, which is why we try to do things slightly differently. To offer our clients a better quality of data for benchmarks and comparisons so that they can actually see where they stand in relation to others in the industry, in their country. Et cetera. 

And I think that's important that you combine well qualitative data from a board evaluation with more quantitative data, but that requires quite sophisticated platforms. Now we embarked on the journey of developing a platform. It's costly. Let's face it. Yeah. You need quite a sophisticated platform with lots of functionalities.

And then. It's not like a common tool. The numbers are smaller, yeah? So it's [00:12:00] very hard to make it economically work, because on the one hand, you need this sophisticated platform with all its functionalities, but on the other side, for this functionality, you very often don't get the numbers.

So it's, it's a give and take. 

Oliver Cummings: What sort of data are you talking about here that you're trying to capture? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: We think a lot of questions are wrong to start with. For example, a lot of these questions relate to the corporate governance code to structures and processes.

Structures and processes are part of it, but not the end of it. We see a lack of behavioral questions, leadership behaviors as a matter in the context of board work, yeah?

Not a general psychometric test, but What are the leadership behaviors that matter in the context of the board work? How are certain behaviors [00:13:00] perceived? So what we do in our work is we capture the data on all the dimensions of effective boards that our research identified. The research is properly peer reviewed and published, happy to send it to anyone.

And based on these dimensions, we basically create the questions. And now we have the data and can on each dimension basically compare clients with each other. We can even say, okay just compare yourself with for example, with other financial services organizations or with other manufacturing organizations.

That gives people insights. How are we doing in relation to others? What do we need to prioritize? 

Oliver Cummings: There's an underlying assumption there that there is such a thing as an effective board that you can identify. And I've always struggled with that as a concept because [00:14:00] it's so hard to run an A B test.

You take the board of, I don't know, EasyJet during. Lockdown its share prices crashing the the board might be doing a brilliant job But ultimately, the business is facing a situation. How do you? How do you isolate and identify that that is an effective board.

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I mean, that's a one billion dollar question frankly.

With any behaviors, it is hard in all in all the research that you can relate certain behaviors directly to a financial outcome. So, it's more, what is an effective board if people trust each other? If communications are open, if discussions are rich if they all contribute different perspectives to the development of the strategy.

So it's a mix. It's not only these quantifiable things, but also these qualitative characteristics. And when you speak with directors, it is very often these [00:15:00] qualitative characteristics that they feel are not right on their board.

And the answer is no. But again and 

Oliver Cummings: to

take that to an extreme, you know, if you take something like trust, people always talk about trust being really important. But I guess there may be a range there because if people trust each other too much. Then they could become complacent and relying on each other and not challenging one another.

And I guess there are lots of one of the things that's often concerned me is when I, when I read the the biographies of some of the most influential leaders and business builders of our time, often they've been quite unpleasant and demonstrated behaviors where you just think that's completely unacceptable.

And yet. They have made those breakthroughs and so I wonder, you know, how do, how do you know that something like trust actually is a good thing for a board? I 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: mean, I agree with you, but then we have to differentiate what you [00:16:00] allude there to are often the CEOs that come with these behaviors. I think as a member of a board, you need to display different behaviors.

And your role is, of course, differently to, to put the checks and balances in place. Yes, we hear about someone like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs, yeah. Certainly, lots is written about their characteristics and their faults. But it is the role of the board to see, well, are we on track in creating value for shareholders, for stakeholders?

And, and do we do this in the right way, i. e. not being in conflict with legislation? And I think there the board can make a big contribution, no doubt.


Oliver Cummings: I'm still searching and I'm struggling to get a grasp of what, how do we get comfortable about what does an effective board do? Look like like what is the the [00:17:00] paradigm that a board member listening to should be aiming for and how do they get confidence that that is

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I think that people search for easy answers. Yeah, they search for the, for the silver bullet, for the one question, for the clear sentence. Now, it's a little bit like if if I ask you, Oliver, what's the secret of a good marriage? Yeah, tell me, tell me the one thing. I mean, it's complex. It's more complex.

I think there are various dimensions where we have actually, clarity about these other dimensions that contribute to an effective board. I'm happy to run through them but we must stop searching for this one line answer. It's more complex than that. It's various elements that have to work together in order to really create an effective board.

Oliver Cummings: Got it. Okay. So it's a, it's a combination of [00:18:00] factors and, and in your experience. Is there a sort of an 80 20 rule there that actually boards that do these kind of 20 things well will be by and large effective? Is that or is it, you know, thousands of factors?

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: We have categorized it in the research into seven. What we call seven hallmarks of effective boards. One is does a board understand its strengths and to build on its strengths and to leverage each other's strengths?

I come to that point at the end again. Do we have the right composition of the board? Not what someone from the outside told us, but is the composition right for the development where we are as an organization?

Is it right for what we try to achieve as an organization? Then it's about clarification of roles and responsibilities. Is it really clear about who does [00:19:00] what? Yeah, lots of overlap. If you have previous executives joining boards, I mean, it's, it's hard. To step into the new role and, and leave everything you learned as an executive behind you.

It's around, are we aligned around the vision, goals, and the focus for the board? I mean, sometimes hilarious results in our evaluation. The board has very different ideas what should be done in the next 12 months. I mean, that makes it a little bit difficult. Yeah. Then it's of course, structures and processes of how the board work is organized.

That we all know processes can always be improved. Yeah, and there are some standard items that you hear almost in every board evaluation. The board packs are too large. Yeah, the papers need to be distributed earlier. We don't manage to stick to the agenda. We always overrun. I mean, these are probably the three things that very often [00:20:00] come up.

The ability to resolve conflicts. Are we able, in our group, but also our group versus executives, can we resolve conflicts well? And the last one is regular reviews and reflection on how we work together. Now, what does research say? In terms of research, the strongest correlations are seen on two of these variables.

Is the board able to leverage the strengths of each other? And does it take out regular time to reflect on how it's working together? Let's just look at these two points.

I completed my doctorate in the 90s, started work as a strategy consultant. And on a Friday night, you stuck outside the pub in the city and you drank unlimited. Yeah, and on Friday, pretty much from lunchtime, the same. When you organized a team dinner, you basically counted two bottles of [00:21:00] wine per head. These times are gone.

Now, we laugh about it, we have become a lot more health conscious. A lot of things are taking place virtually. A lot of board meetings are hybrid these days. Not everyone meets physically. Sometimes they work together for a year or two and have never really physically shaken hands. There is a correlation, which we can't talk away, between the quality time you spend with someone and how you know someone.

You can put things in context if you know someone. You can put a question and answer he gives in the boardroom in a context. If I spend quality time with someone, I know exactly what his or her strengths are, how I can make use of this. That is often missing, yeah? And then, it's not the board evaluation that goes wrong, [00:22:00] yeah?

Also, there is no doubt that teams that spend time On a regular basis, reflecting how are we actually working together? What goes well? What would be even better if? I can recall again in the good old 90s, yeah? After every project in consultancy, we were doing a table. Yeah? What went well? Even better if.

Simple table. After every project. Make 

Oliver Cummings: my team do it after every meeting.

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: Does the board take time to do that? The answer is no. People leave the boardroom early because they have to catch a train or a flight. Everyone is rushing around. I see this on our bookings for board away days. How many board away days did I schedule around the year 2010 and how many board away days do I schedule these days?

People don't want to spend the money. They don't have the time for it. But it does make a difference. [00:23:00] People want quick answers. Dr. Minkowski, can you shorten the question now?

We just have 20 minutes. 20 minutes, but we want all the insights. And by the way, and at the end, you present us the results at the board meeting. Very often at the end of the day, yeah? I booked in for half an hour. Oh, but it would be good if you can do it in 20 minutes. I can. But I don't need to know the data, you need to own the data, you need to own the results, and you need to do something with it.

And that very often gets sadly lost.

Oliver Cummings: Is that because the connection between doing this and the value that it delivers is not clear enough to people? Is it the incentives? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I also spoke with the FRC about this, the uptake of board evaluation is very good, particularly in the UK, it's increasing in other countries, but the implementation [00:24:00] of the results, that is the next big thing that has to be improved, the, the engagement, 

Oliver Cummings: Whose responsibility is that because for me, whenever I have problems like that, it's normally, cause there's not a directly responsible individual,

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: the ultimate responsibility is the chair. I mean, we have worked with some great chairs, yeah. Chairmen, chairwomen. Who, who really take it seriously, who devote the time and they have got amazing results. Now, what we are seeing, if I look at our client list, it's the companies that are already leaders in the industry.

Yeah, it's already the good companies that actually spent a lot of time on this. They are curious. They are open minded. They want to learn. They want to develop. So you can clearly see, almost, Who invests what? Also in the board evaluation process. And they're [00:25:00] standing in the industry. We see in our, on our client list, a clear correlation. 

Oliver Cummings: Again go back to those seven things, you talked about the two that stand out most amongst the highest performing boards. Are there any that stand out most commonly as being deficient in the worst boards? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: Really bad boards I mean there are probably these three issues. It's this roles and responsibilities that they are not clear. That the terms are not as clear as they, as they should be. And then how the terms are put into action is usually quite poor. There's a lack of alignment around vision goals and focus what should be done. And we see poor structures and processes for the board work. And that is actually something where we see, which we all, where we see also a difference in terms of private equity backed organizations versus listed organizations.

I mean, listed organizations because of the years of practice. What we are seeing in, in the UK and in some other [00:26:00] European countries where we work is the structures and processes are pretty good. Yes, they can always improve, but look, the basic things are literally all in place.

That is different with private equity backed organizations, which are just starting to establish these processes. There we see much more issues around structures and processes, how the board work is organized because Other pressures still prevail, and it's only shortly before they go to an IPO, or the business is supposed to be sold, that more efforts are put into these processes.

Oliver Cummings: Got it. In a good board review, do you think individual board members should be appraised, or should it be the board as a whole? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I think a combination. Yeah, I think definitely a combination between the board as a, as a group, but also insights for each individual board members. [00:27:00] Now, and, and that is a tricky issue.

I think a lot of consultants shied away from doing that because maybe they have also other interests. Yeah, there's a huge discussion amongst executive search consultants. Should we offer board evaluations or should we not offer board evaluations? 

On the one hand, they have the relationships, so they could easily leverage these relationships in order to sell them also a board evaluation. On the other hand, well, there is a red line.

So you see, amongst executive search consultants, literally this big philosophical divide. Those who say, yes, we should do it, and others who say, no, we shouldn't do this under any circumstances.

Let's say if I'm a partner of a large firm and I have a certain revenue target and I finally meet a footsie chair. It's not only this relatively cheap board effectiveness evaluation I need to sell into this organization. 

I need to sell [00:28:00] into the organization so, so much more. So yes, philosophically it's a, it's a question. Do we do it? Don't we do it? And if we do it, can we really dare to give negative feedback that might ruffle some feathers?

Oliver Cummings: You talked earlier about the gap between assessment, understanding, and then implementation of changes required. And, and talked about that being the responsibility of the chair. What do you see as sort of best practice for? feedback of a board assessment and then follow up on it. What does that look like?

If a chair is sitting there listening to this now thinking, okay, well, I've, I've done it, but actually I fall into that category of someone who hasn't followed up and I want to do better now.

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I think a couple of things can be done. I think first the chair the company secretariat, but also the chair should take the time for, for good working session.

Yeah where these [00:29:00] results can be discussed. I do believe strongly, I'm a strong believer in individual feedback behind closed doors. Because, as I said before, these people have a lot to lose and conversations are truly different in the group than they are one on one.

So, a good one on one conversation with each board member where you use the data to spell out, here is what you can do to become more impactful in this setting, and I think is, is important and is best practice in our view.

And then, after these individual feedback conversations, Also actually to, to have a real working session with the board, yeah, where you decide on an action plan and not just give us a presentation for 20 minutes or maximum 30 minutes at the end of a board meeting.

 It's interesting the way you [00:30:00] talk about the, the assessment criteria, I suppose it runs across what I think of as some of the key responsibilities of the board. So, for example, one of the key responsibilities of the board, in my mind, is, you know, hiring and managing and ultimately firing and succession planning for the CEO.

Oliver Cummings: Should a good board review have dedicated time focused on assessing that muscle within the board and how it's going about that particular responsibility? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I think the conversations very often lead to these key, key tasks, but then to this, yeah, to these key roles a, a, a, a board should fulfill.

Now, where it becomes tricky is, so you have one hour with a director for the interview, maybe one and a half, max.

[00:31:00] And there are so many interesting questions you can ask that director. Yeah, what you alluded to is just, yeah, it's very important. It's one of the key roles, but someone else would argue Strategy. Yeah, it's it's about the sign of the strategy. Now I've been a strategy consultant and I know and and that is what I frequently discuss when we did the basic due diligence of a listed company.

I had a team of three or four people and we were slogging for six weeks. To really understand the strategy and say something meaningful at the end of the process. Might be that some strategy consultants are a lot quicker these days. But can you really, with all the areas that you have to cover in a board evaluation process, dive deep on each of these issues?

And say something meaningful. I have particularly [00:32:00] discussions around strategy. Yeah, because a lot of people, ah, can someone who evaluates a board, an executive search consultant, whoever it is, if they incorporate some questions on strategy into this or into key tasks like succession planning development of an executive team.

These are big, big issues. How much is possible? We have to be realistic. How much is really possible in this process? And that is where we become skeptical because if you want to go into every role, into every task they have to do, then a lot more time needs to be devoted to the process. Would it be useful?

Yes, it would be. Is this part of the common practice? No, it is not. 

Oliver Cummings: Sometimes we'll talk to chairs, CEOs of, you know, midsize and smaller [00:33:00] businesses. Where they don't necessarily have huge boards, but they do want to ensure they're getting more value out of the board. 

And one thing that I've sometimes suggested to people is get a former or a current chair from another business or former CEO from another business to just come in and observe and use their sniff test and their experience to identify quickly what's working and what's not, 

how do you think about that as an approach, is that, do you think that's an effective way to go about this rather than having to do a very sort of structured analysis to do one, which I guess is a bit more intuitive relying on someone who has, has been in the hot seat. 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: Before every boat evaluation, we have this discussion around. Is observation part of your process? I think, yes, if you want me to, I'll do it, yeah? But we shouldn't forget that the moment the observer is in the room, the subject changes. And now, people who are [00:34:00] proponents of that basically say, Ah, but the trick of a, of a good observer is to make himself, herself invisible.

Sometimes I actually sit in a different room and then you observe people with a camera. People, of course, before they get told, look, there is a camera or they record it and I look at it that's already a bit better, but look, every scientist will tell you the moment you observe something, the phenomenon changes.

And what I've seen much more, if you give directors feedback based on what you observed in the board meeting, there are so many cop out clauses. There are so many pushbacks on that. Yeah, or that board meeting was different because Simon was not in the room. Ah, that board meeting was different because we actually didn't have to discuss the tricky issues.

Yeah, so there are so many standard arguments you hear. Why the data point you collected [00:35:00] from a board evaluation from, from from an observation is really not this valid, which is why I'm highly skeptical. If a client wants it, I do it as part of the overall package, but then we have a discussion. Let's at least see how we can optimize it rather than me sitting there also drinking coffee and eating biscuits.

Oliver Cummings: Love it. So you're skeptical of the value of observations. What other things are there that you regularly see organizations or get asked by organizations to do as part of an effectiveness review that you're skeptical about?

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: Some people would kill me for this one. Reviewing of board packs now. Yeah. I say I'd happily do it, but basically I can use my standard template, yeah, and send it to you.

Because the answers are always the same, and they know it. You haven't written enough executive summaries. The executive summaries are not clear enough. The board packs are too [00:36:00] long. You haven't written concise board papers. You haven't made sufficient use of visualizations, and charts, and infographics, and things.

Now, happy to do it, but what I just listed are pretty much the standard answers. If a client wants to pay for it, fine. They know it. They need to put in the time in order to write good executive summaries, concise papers be clear to presenters where the limits are for their contributions in terms of slides, in terms of number of pages, simply do it.

But, happy to do it, but I bet, Fiverr, that you are, the answers are not this different.

Oliver Cummings: I love that. I love it when a guest starts the answer with they're going to kill me for saying this. Sabine, the time has flown by, which means it's time to go on to our lightning round where I say a short statement and ask you for a quick response if you're ready. Ready. [00:37:00] First up, the bordering behavior that irritates you most.

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: If someone isn't open to learn, if someone knows it all, believes knows it all, isn't curious, lost this zest for learning.

Oliver Cummings: Your favorite quote and 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: why? If you do what you've always done, you get what you always got.

Oliver Cummings: Most significant professional insight? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I think with age you become calmer. Probably as a younger self, I could have been a little bit more diplomatic and I probably would have furthered my career. But that's the past.

Oliver Cummings: Worst professional advice you ever received? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: Stop doing what you're doing. A lot of people ask me when I start embarked on beta boards to look, there's no commercial value in this. There might not be a commercial value as, as much as, as they believe, but it's intellectually hugely interesting work. I love it. And I do see, I thrive on the positive [00:38:00] impact we have. So that was the worst I heard some years ago. Stop doing it. Do something else.

Oliver Cummings: What have you changed your mind on about boards over time?

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I have sympathy for the work. And I can see more clearly how, how difficult it is. It's easy to, to stand on the side and say, My goodness, why aren't they not doing this or that? It's hugely, I take my hat off the people who do it well, and also the chairs who do it well. It's hugely complex, it's an art and a science, and it's not only knowing what to do, but also how to do it, and really understand the dynamics and working with people.

 And the really great chairs, and we had the pleasure to work with some fantastic chairs, they make it look so easy. Which you think is nothing difficult about this, but it's hugely difficult. [00:39:00] It really is

Oliver Cummings: what are you invested in and why? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: I'm a huge believer in the future. So I invest a lot in literally in technology in Emerging markets in in other countries.

Oliver Cummings: And finally, what three things should listeners take away from this podcast, if they take nothing else? 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: If you do board evaluations, because you have to do them, do them well, look into the market, what are the approaches that really serve you and at the moment what we see.

Here in the UK and the most progressive companies are doing is, is a hybrid approach. Interviews and and the digital questionnaire. So really invest the time in understanding what a board evaluator, what a board evaluation can offer you and if it's the right approach for your current situation.

Further to this, if you do a board [00:40:00] evaluation and you pay for a board evaluation, invest the time. To really discuss the results otherwise it's, it, it, it's wasted. Really, I mean, spend at least half a day on the board, discussing the results. Take it further, really do something with the results.

And then check if you've done something with the results. Third, in VD, technology allows you now to, to basically establish longitudinal data. So if you do a board evaluation and you use a platform, you use the same the next year, the year after, so that you compare like with like and you see, have we made progress, haven't we made progress?

I, I, I think that there is a real lack of systematically developed boards because Organization change board evaluators, organization change systems, [00:41:00] do it themselves. And that's no good. I mean, if you do it, do it systematically and do it well, and you will get something out of it.

Oliver Cummings: Sabina, having heard you as a host, it's been wonderful to have the opportunity to get you in the seat as a guest. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your huge experience and wisdom on the topic of board effectiveness 

Dr Sabine Dembkoswki: reviews. Oliver, it was a real pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.

🎙️ You can listen to the full podcast interview with Dr Sembkowski on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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