A friend of mine, who is a very good surgeon came to see me one day. As we chatted away, he lamented that as a prominent citizen, he felt unappreciated.
This was because no one had ever asked him to sit on the board of a major company or even a not-for-profit foundation. It was clear that he hoped that I would either appoint him to a board, or recommend him to one.
“Let’s do a trade,” I suggested, after a pause. “You see, when I was young, I could not make up my mind whether to study engineering, or to do medicine. Even today, I sometimes wish I had become a doctor… If you arrange for me to come to the operating theater, and to help you do a small operation, I will arrange for you, to sit on a board.”
At that he burst out laughing, and said, “You cannot allow a person who is not qualified, to enter an operating theater! You can kill somebody!” He exclaimed. [TweetMe]
Then he noticed, that I was not laughing with him, but just looking intently at him. Then I said, “The board room of a company is its operating theater. That is the place where the most skilled surgical operations are supposed to occur. I said this so you could understand how seriously, I consider what happens, or should happen there.”
“Most organizations, are killed in the board room [TweetMe]. Many companies die on the operating table, because the people on the board have no clue why they are there, or lack the skills of directors.”
Being on the board of any organization, whether it is a business or State Owned Enterprise, or philanthropic organization, or any type of organization, should always be about the skills that you bring. It should never be about prestige or honor to the person being appointed.
Time permitting, I shall return to this subject again, in future. For now I have laid down a marker, “Who is in the operating theater of your organization; a surgeon or a butcher?” [TweetMe]
Incidentally, I advised my doctor friend to go and buy some books about boards and the role of directors. I advised him to join the Institute of Directors, and other related associations. I suggested he does a course on reading Financial Statements. A year later he said to me that he was shocked and humbled by what he did not know.
“You were right; I could have wrecked the lives of a lot of people, in that theater of yours…” We remain, friends, and he is now a good board member.
Editor’s Note: Who is in the ‘operating theater’ of your leadership journey?