The value of courage in decision-making…

Listen below to this short interview with Abby Foote, NZSA’s 2023 Beacon Award winner to hear more about her views on courage, success and diversity of thought – and the value that can add to a Board.

Our announcement last week recognised Abby Foote for two specific issues arising during 2023, relating to the stance she adopted in relation director independence at Sanford Limited and her strategic review at Christchurch City Holdings Limited (CCHL) that would have resulted in improved returns for Christchurch City Council while allowing access to more effective capital funding for the key assets owned by CCHL.

But the underlying word that describes the Beacon Award is courage – the ability to stand up and be counted, even when no-one is listening. At NZSA, we know what that’s like.

From NZSA’s perspective, a diverse Board that is inclusive will actively consider individual differences, working to make decisions in the best interests of the company. Without inclusivity, diversity in and of itself is a mere tick-box exercise that adds little value. Unfortunately, the innate culture accompanying Board decision-making can be hard for shareholders to assess from the outside.

In Abby’s own comments at the Awards ceremony, Abby herself noted that “the role of directors has changed significantly and the challenges are getting more complex for Boards. Some of these challenges will require us to out courage before comfort.

Those challenges are featured in this short interview with Abby Foote, held directly after she received the Beacon Award. It’s worth a watch – and perhaps keeping some of her comments in mind as shareholders.

On the challenges faced by directors in difficult situations:

“you have to think really hard about what are the company’s best interests”.

“there’s a high value placed on collegiality on Boards. But that depends on a Board being inclusive and dealing with the diversity of views.

On diversity:

“Diversity is about diversity of thought and directors challenging themselves with different perspectives before they make decisions”

On the key learnings from her own career:

“courage is important – directors need to state their views and be prepared to accept that others may not agree with those views.”

“culture trumps most things”

“directors have to be leaders”

“pragmatism is a great thing…but there are some things you need to take a stand on”

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