Boards are our business


Three Key Areas Where Boards Can Have an Impact in 2022: A Letter from Liz Watson

January 18, 2022

Posted in: WATSON Views

Happy New Year!

As we welcome in the new year, my inbox is filled with publications telling directors what they need to pay attention to in 2022. There is no end of new and emerging areas where directors are expected to play an expanded role in oversight, advice, and decisions, e.g., ESG, data privacy, the future of work, DEI, strategy pivot, digitization, and path to net zero – to name but a few.

While all these topics are important, as an advisor to boards across sectors and a director myself, I think there are three fundamental areas where directors can have real impact in the coming year.

  1. Define your Purpose: Defining your organization’s purpose and how its business supports a stronger global society has never been more important than at this point in history. Without establishing the fundamental raison d’être of the organization with this context in mind, the work associated with governance will not have the impact that directors intend, and investors, employees and other stakeholders expect. To draw on the work of the Enacting Purpose Initiative housed at Oxford University, business purpose is a clear statement of how the organization will “solve the problems of people and planet profitably and not profit from causing problems.”
  2. Modernize Board Composition: New business models, globalization and stakeholder interests require a broader array of skills and experience at the board table. The old paradigm no longer works. To provide leadership and have impact, board composition must modernize to reflect the skills, experience and perspectives needed in today’s business environment. Today’s pace of change requires the addition of younger directors who are in tune with evolving business models, and increased participation from under-represented groups of talent to broaden perspectives around the table. An intentional approach to board culture and dynamics is necessary to build a strong and high-functioning team.
  3. Focus on People: HR strategy, people and culture are the board’s business. While we used to say that hiring the CEO was the board’s #1 job, now the board must ensure there is a robust talent strategy, a competent, healthy, and constructive leadership team, and a thriving workplace culture to support the organization’s strategy. Ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion thrive throughout the organization requires more than policies and targets. Many boards need to spend more time discussing top talent, gaining a true picture of the tone at the top set by the leadership team, and understanding the true state of affairs at all levels of the organization. A strategic and courageous HR leader is an invaluable asset to the board.

As we move into the new year, I look forward to continuing the discussion with you on these and other important topics related to governance and leadership.

Wishing you, your families and your boards, a happy, healthy, and successful new year.



WATSON Webinar: Is DEI In Your DNA?

January 11, 2022

Posted in: WATSON Views, WATSON Webinars

Is DEI in Your DNA? Embedding DEI in the Fabric of Your Board.

It’s 2022 and it’s highly likely that almost every board will add Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to their agenda.

Boards are steadily making progress in terms of their capability, focus and impact in this area yet most have gaps, and few are at a stage where they would say that DEI is a true strength in their work.

Moderated by Rachel O’Connor, join WATSON senior governance consultant, Jodi Butts, and guest panelist David Simmonds as they discuss about what comes next in DEI. They’ll look at how boards can get ahead of the curve and be ready for the next conversations in DEI. This is about what your board can do to feel truly ready for whatever might come next.

We’ll discuss:

  • Where most boards are focused today
  • Where they need to expand their thinking and their work
  • What leading boards are doing

We’ll bring the topic to life by combining WATSON’s knowledge with real-world insights from guest panelist, David Simmonds, who sees this topic from multiple vantage points: as a director, an executive, and an advisor. We’ll be sure to leave ample time for Q&A and discussion so we can tap into the wisdom and experience of the group.

When: January 25, 1pm EST / 10am PST

Register HERE.

Registration is Complimentary



WATSON Continues to Expand Ontario Presence

January 10, 2022

Posted in: WATSON Views

We are thrilled to continue WATSON’s expansion in Ontario!


DEI Health Check

December 16, 2021

Posted in: WATSON Views

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are priorities for every board – or at least they should be. A strong DEI approach can enable organizations to access enormous opportunity and manage the related risks, but most boards are just scratching the surface. This is more than a tick-the-box exercise; getting it right means building strength and confidence, and WATSON is here to help.

You don’t need to be Adidas, Amazon, or Apple to have a public stumble over shortcomings in diversity, equity, or inclusion. When approached with intention and commitment, DEI helps amplify the strengths of your organization. When ignored, DEI issues can turn toxic and lead to a loss of trust, risking considerable personal and economic harm.

So how do you know if DEI is truly in your DNA? These are complex issues to address, and most boards– even the most aligned to DEI–have blind spots. Some boards have worked hard on board diversity and neglected inclusion and equity, while others may have moved the needle on some DEI-specific initiatives but have not broadened the lens to consider how DEI impacts other areas of oversight. We’ve seen some boards that are intensively focused on their oversight of DEI within the organization and miss looking at themselves as boards.

At WATSON, we’ve found that bringing DEI to life requires attention to three key dimensions:

  1. The board’s own DEI:
  • Is the board diverse?
  • Is it inclusive?
  • Are the board’s practices equitable for directors (and prospective directors)?
  1. The board’s oversight of DEI in the organization:
  • Does the organization have a DEI strategy, goals, and metrics?
  • How is the organization’s health in terms of DEI?
  • Are DEI initiatives progressing and delivering outcomes?
  1. The way the board brings a DEI lens to all their work:
  • Does the board consider DEI when dealing with strategy, financials, risk, safety, customer, etc.?
  • Does the board embed DEI thinking and momentum in themselves as directors, management, the organization, and its stakeholders?
  • Does the organization live DEI from the big decisions at strategic level to daily transactions?

Organizations will have truly integrated DEI when it becomes such a part of the foundation of who they are and what they do that it infuses all their work, rather than being its own exercise. There are important dimensions to layer on top of the foundation, building strength over time to allow the board and the organization to access the opportunities and benefits of DEI, while reducing related risk. Strengthen your board with practices for embedding a DEI lens in all decision-making, be it related to strategy, customers, or anything else.

It truly is a journey, and we are on it together.

At WATSON we have codified all of this into what we call our DEI Living Framework – a toolkit of considerations from the board’s vantage point, and how we dig into those considerations. We call it a “Living Framework” because like our clients, and our broader society and communities, we continue to learn and adapt as new thinking and experiences expand our view. Today we have a comprehensive set of practice points that reflect DEI strength, and we can assess current practices against those. We put this approach to work with our clients via our DEI Health Check program. We would be pleased to talk to you about the DEI Health Check program, and over the next few months we will also share some dimensions of the DEI Living Framework here, to support our purpose of helping organizations perform better.


Think it might be time for a deeper look into your board’s DEI health? Our 33-point self-assessment is a quick way to see if it’s time for a DEI tune-up, or something deeper. We all have blind-spots, and this tool is designed as a starting point to understanding your organization’s DEI health.

Email us at for your free copy of our DEI self-assessment tool.



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