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7 Questions with Dr Jack Jacoby
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7 Questions with Dr Jack Jacoby
Name: Dr Jack Jacoby
Current title: Executive Chairman
Current organisation: Jacoby Consulting Group Pty Ltd and Advisory & Mentoring Pte Ltd
CEO of 465-bed facility at 26.
Have been with top-tier consulting firms for many years within Ernst & Young (director), KPMG, Touche Ross, Ibis.
Fixed, refined and redirected hundreds of organisations (for profits, NFPs, NGOs and government.)
Have been running my own corporate advisory firm for 24 years.
Founding director of Advisory & Mentoring Pte Ltd.
Written 7 books
Mentored over 300 people
1. What have you found most challenging as a board member?
Problems vary in difficulty depending on the context. What is a challenge in one context may not be a challenge in another.
The biggest single situation was when I was Chairman and the founder and CEO of a related organisation was misrepresenting facts to the board. Had I pushed against the CEO, then the organisation's objectives (SDG-related) would have been compromised. Had I accepted the misrepresentations, then the integrity of the board and its directors would have been compromised.
2. How did you become a board member? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I've been (and still am) a board member a number of times - every time by invitation.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I always review my next day before the end of the previous day so that when I wake up, I know what's in store for my and my day ahead.
I am very organised and rarely struggle to get done what I have scheduled for the day.
I have a very flexible schedule so I do what I like balanced with what I need to get done.
It's not a stress issue for me. My stress comes from boredom, so the busier I am, the happier I am.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Breach of trust is painful and can be very costly. If you trust the wrong person, you will probably pay the price - eventually.
5. What are some of the keys to doing governance well in a organisation?
Although 'full-time' board membership provides a great level of detail and understanding to the incumbent, it also has its challenges for the role of the board member, i.e. ensuring compliance, probity, legality, risk management, and adherence to and delivery of set goals.
When you're very close to the action, you inevitably become part of the action and as a board member, you then must adjudicate over your own decisions, actions and performance.
Extensive research has demonstrated that managers and directors act subjectively (but with well-meaning intent.) Such subjectivity needs to be effectively over-sighted in the interests of the company and its shareholders. Further, different companies in different contexts at different stages of their development need different inputs from their directors.
There is no universal truth here.
In relation to the integrity of management information to the board, there are multiple dimensions at play here. First and foremost, there is an abundance of research that demonstrates the subjectivity of management (and directors). To think that management always acts in the best interest of the corporation or the shareholder is very naive. Therefore, for a director to accept at face value anything that comes from management that has an impact on the Board's core accountabilities and responsibilities, is problematic and risky.
A Board that has experienced consistent behaviours from the executive team that has demonstrated veracity, honesty and openness is a reasonable basis upon which to 'trust' management - to a point. On the other hand, if management is new, unproven or has previously been less than truthful or accurate (or incomplete) then the director has a responsibility to question and probe.
A fact about directorship is that information, although technically accessible to the Board, is not practically accessible - management will always have access to more information than directors. We all acknowledge that the building of a strategic plan, for example, is embedded with multiple informational inputs along the journey of its construction. Very few of these informational inputs and assumptions are brought to the attention of directors nor are all the assumptions surfaced and tested. Therefore, it is common for directors to be forced to resolve, decide or adjudicate on matters where full information and understanding is lacking.
Furthermore, some will interpret the questioning of executives as a display of no confidence or no trust - both are potentially problematic for the operations of the board and the relationship between directors and management.
The director, before a probing and potentially threatening question is asked, must ask him/herself, "Is the answer to the question material to the Board's responsibilities and required outcomes?" If not, then why ask it?
6. How do you differentiate between the role of board member and the roles of CEO or executive team member of a organisation?
The board ensures that the management team (and therefore the organisation) performs in an agreed manner, within agreed constraints (compliance, values, cultural, etc.), within an agreed budget, within an agreed timeframe, to deliver agreed outputs.
The executive team must ensure that the agreed outputs are delivered within the context outlined by the board.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a board member so far?
Refer to my response in question 1.