It makes sense that boards and management teams should do different things. But where does corporate governance end and leading the company begin?
According to Falls, governing is all about helping a company "achieve its goals and objectives while, at the same time, ensuring that it meets its obligations to a whole variety of stakeholders." These might be customers, investors, regulators, employees, or even the local community. Leading, on the other hand, is about planning and directing the day-to-day operations of a company.
Falls' book sets out a framework for corporate governance that acknowledges this difference in roles. Crucially, it also presents ways in which the board and the C-suite can work together harmoniously and effectively – the "concinnity" of her book’s title.
"The reality is, those of us who lead and govern in companies really need a new way of thinking about how we do our work," she says. "Environments are changing so rapidly, there’s more risk out there, and we really need to approach it differently. We've begun to change what I call the 'what' and the 'who' of leading and governing.
"We appreciate that we have to be focused on different things and that we need different players to help us do that. But the reality is, when you bring all these different players together, they sometimes have trouble working well together because they're different, and that's where we really need to work on the 'how' of our work together. That's what the book is really focused on."
So what about that unusual word, concinnity? It dates back to the 16th century, Falls says, and means the skillful and harmonious arrangement of the different parts of something – for example, a corporate governance structure.
"This word 'concinnity' really gives, in a word, a goal for people to work towards together," she explains. "In the context of business, this word represents both the concept and a goal and that is one of constructive harmony and pulling diverse players, diverse agendas, together."
The 10-part framework outlined in the book, designed to create corporate concinnity, is a "great defense against what I have found to be the most common leadership and governance mistakes that happen in and around the boardroom and the C-suite," Falls says. "And the cool thing is, people who work with one another in these companies that embrace concinnity find the work actually becomes easier and it becomes more fun."
Her 10 tips for achieving concinnity in the boardroom include: draw a line in the sand, clarifying roles and responsibilities; don’t go overboard, about getting the right people around the table doing the right things; and cultivate wisdom, reminding board members to reflect rather than react, to be compassionate rather than indifferent.
In this audio clip, from our Expert Interview podcast, Falls elaborates on the benefits cultivating wisdom can bring to an organization.
If you’re on a board, or work with one, you'll probably find a lot of value in Nancy Falls' book. And if you work elsewhere in your organization's hierarchy, you may still find it useful. Concinnity is surely a worthwhile goal, no matter what job you do. How would you change the way your team works, for greater harmony and effectiveness? Join in the discussion below!