by Lauren Capotosto

HP Lessons Learned: Be a Good Board Member

Nov 01, 20062 mins

You may not need an ethicist to explain the implications of pretexting. But as the Hewlett-Packard scandal shows, being a board member today requires more than gut instinct. Stand out for good reason, with this advice from ethics experts and CIOs who serve on boards.

DO dust off your Descartes texts. “You can have all the ethics in the world without having a firm grasp of what to do in a complex situation,” says Tom Donaldson, business ethics professor at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Consider a business ethics course.

DON’T shy away from confrontation. “If there’s not a little bit of creative tension between board members and the CEO, the board isn’t doing its job,” Donaldson says.

DO approach boards as a businessperson, not a techie. “You don’t want to step onto a board and be the tech guy or gal. You want to be a businessperson who helps the business through critical decisions and just happens to have technical expertise,” says Rob Carter, executive VP and CIO of FedEx and a board member for Saks.

DON’T try to run the company. “The role of a board member is to challenge, think, ask questions, analyze and advise. Be very aware of the line between adviser and doer,” says Ed Kamins, corporate senior VP and former CIO of Avnet, as well as a board member of InterDigital Communications and Calence.

DO bring unique perspective to the table. “A CIO brings technical knowledge, but also a way to think about things in an analytical way,” Kamins says.

DON’T repeatedly say, “This is how we do it at….” What works for one company won’t work everywhere, says Jeff Balagna, CIO for Carlson Companies and a board member of the Tennant Company and Minnesota Public Radio.