Effective Board Governance: An Interview with Eli Giske
4 May 2023
The cooperation between the board and management is extremely important for the board to contribute to value creation in a business, believes the experienced board chair Eli Giske.
Regular Chair: Eli Giske is the chair of two companies, deputy chair of another, and holds five additional board positions. She continuously evaluates the board’s work.
Giske has personally felt when board operations are not working optimally, both as part of the management team and as a board member. Therefore, as board chair, she is highly motivated to create the best platform for the board and contribute the greatest value to the company.
“I am keen to discuss what is needed to achieve the best cooperation. Both internally on the board and with the management team. It is essential to spend time making it work as well as possible. When I step in as chair of a new business, I have to understand the owners’ expectations, the company’s mandate, strategy and business model, and what expectations are placed on the board. As a new chair, getting to know the CEO and the rest of the board is also important. We must be a good team, even if we have different roles,” says Giske.
Eli Giske has extensive senior management experience and has primarily spent her time as a board chair and board member in recent years. She works for both privately and publicly owned organizations and is the board chair of two companies and deputy board chair of another. Regardless of ownership, Giske is keen for the board to create value.
“A well-functioning board is a team where you can see that you are contributing to the company’s value creation. We are in the same boat as the management; we are not two teams. This means that we have to work well together with the executive leadership. We must contribute and help,” says Giske.
Both support and control
The board has several statutory tasks and must exercise control over the business. Giske is concerned that it should not be an obstacle to giving energy to the company’s executive team.
“We make good use of the time at board meetings. Have the right issues on the agenda and good discussions. It should be an arena where the ceiling is high, but we must ensure that the executive leaders are energized and motivated, even if the discussions have been tough,” says Giske.
Close to the CEO
As board chair, Eli Giske works closely with the CEO. How close depends on the challenges the company is facing. She believes that it is her job as chair to ensure that the board functions well and that new board members are introduced to the business as necessary.
“I lead on the conduct of the board meetings and work with the managing director to put a good agenda in place, agreeing on how long we should spend on each item and how many items it is advisable to have on the agenda. I like to have heavy strategy discussions early and ensure we spend more time discussing issues than presenting them.”
At the end of each meeting, Giske evaluates the meeting with the board and management team. What worked and what didn’t? Did the management get the help they needed?
“We have an open dialogue about how things work. Relationships must also be evaluated. It is vital that areas for improvement are continuously identified. I also want to get feedback on how those who have presented to the board experienced it,” says Giske.
Evaluation is important
Eli Giske knows evaluation is essential to get the best possible board work. Both ongoing and a more thorough evaluation once a year.
“When the board responds to an evaluation through a traditional questionnaire, I often think the board is too satisfied with itself. We must find out how the board actually works by challenging the group in an open dialogue. The chair must ensure that everyone has their say and has a topic covered in an open discussion. It is too easy to score yourself on the various topics in a survey.
And then, it is important to have opinions from the management team. Whether the board adds value to implementing the strategy. A board evaluation should end with a few improvement points that are followed up,” says Giske.
Thorough board evaluations
Visindi (IIC Partners member firm) has extensive experience with systematic, formal, and regular evaluations of the board’s work. Managing director Jenny Homme is one of those who carries out board evaluations regularly.
“Good evaluations can be of great importance for developing efficient and professional boards. A good board must assist the company’s management in fulfilling its strategy. Every board must aim to contribute to value creation,” says Homme.
A flexible and qualitative approach
Visindi offers board evaluation based on a flexible, qualitative approach. The board’s work is surveyed and evaluated to contribute to:
- Increasing the efficiency of the board
- Making the board’s responsibilities visible
- Insight into the need for expertise
- Quality assurance of the decision-making processes
“All our processes start with a thorough analysis of the current situation and key criteria for future positive development. The work process is agreed together with the chair of the board and other board members. Together we clarify the scope of interviews and create the basis for a standard interview guide,” says Homme.
Read more about board evaluation at Visindi: https://visindi.no/styreevaluation
Visindi is an executive search and leadership consulting organization headquartered in Oslo and operating throughout Norway. Visindi has a team of nearly 40 highly-qualified and values-driven employees with extensive experience in selecting candidates for boards and management groups in different sectors. They prize social commitment, far-sightedness, and diversity and are proud of working with brands and organizations that are shaping our world for the better. Visindi joined IIC Partners in 2020, becoming a valued member of the leading global network of executive search firms.