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A Board of Directors Make Up Will Influence Corporate Behavior

In a prior post I promised to take on the conversation about companies and the changes they need to implement to be successful in the future.  Large public companies are my starting point.  In the last three to five years a bit more attention has been given to the make up of the Board of Directors of large public companies.  In the last year the most glaring discussions were held around the Banks, Wall Street type companies and the mortgage industry as a whole.  The absolute heart of the matter is this – Is the Board and the Executive Team in their job for the quick hit and their personal short term gain or are they in their positions and driven by their compensation model to be in their positions for the long term good of the company they are working for?  If everyone on the Board and the Executive Team are from the Harvard University or Stanford University crew team, http://www.harvard.edu, they all may be brilliant, however, they are all trained to row in the same direction all the time.  This is usually not a model for success in business.  It reminds me of the small figures in the back of the family car years ago.  These were the original ‘bobble head dolls’.  Whenever we would go out for a drive the heads bobbed ‘yes’ up and down.  If you were running a large company is that what you want from your Board of Directors?  Just agree and say ‘yes’ all of the time?.  Here is a recent story for you to consider.  Miles White is the CEO of Abbott Labs. http://www.abbott.com .  Abbott Labs is a company that produces a lot of nutritional and weight loss products. Miles White is now on the Board of Directors for McDonald’s. http://www.mcdonalds.com .  So here is my question: who comes out looking better in this deal – Abbott Labs or McDonald’s?  Does Miles White add value to the make up of the menu and food purchases at McDonald’s?  Is McDonald’s able to capitalize on the CEO of Abbott Labs on their Board of Directors as proof they are a ‘healthier’ fast food company?


  1. Well that poses a very good question…
    My initial reaction was…that’s crazy. Why would he go from one extreme to the other jeopardizing his reputation? Then I read your post again and I can see how his position with McDonald’s could help company image. With most restaurants ‘trying’ to have healthier options…I can see how it would help having someone of his caliber on the board.
    Very thought provoking!

    • Kiyla,
      Good to see you followed where this was heading. Hard to imagine how this one hardly created much buzz and is clearly an example of great points.

  2. The last thing I would want for my large company would be a bunch of ‘bobble heads’ on my board. Very good analogy of how some companies are run. Great article. Keep them coming!
    Dr. Bob

    • The Mentor Guy says

      Dr. Robert,
      I would say ‘yes’ but that would be too funny! By the way do crew team rowers also suffer from carpal tunnel?

  3. Interesting perspective Mitch makes you stop and think about how often we just take at face value Board appointments and don’t look into the reasons why. Great article!
    Cheers Heidi Alexandra

    • Heidi,
      It is something more people are taking notice of, yet, the egos at the top are often in the way of progress. The more examples which are openly discussed and brought up for open discussion the sooner everyone will understand the importance of a quality board of directors who add value and challenge as necessary.

  4. Great article, and I’m passing it on to a few folks I work with who have boards. Most definitely, they can make you or break you.
    Sue Painter

    • The Mentor Guy says

      Thank you. This is a real hot button topic. I appreciate you spreading the word so we engage in a broader dialogue.

  5. maybe Im just a cynic – my reaction was similar to that of kiyla but I wouldnt necessarily consider a pharmaceutical co ‘healthy’ – are weight loss supplements really that healthy? Often the companies that create health probs are also those that produce ‘solutions’. Maybe it all ‘looks’ better for Maccas but it wont convince me as a (non) consumer that they intend to create ‘healthy food’ even if they do ‘milk’ (or is that ‘upsize’) this new board member for all it seems worth.

  6. Agree: Bunch of Bobbleheads = Bad Idea!! Love the way you put it: that they are all “trained to row in the same direction all the time.” The whole point of having a board is to have a diversity of experience and ideas to make the best possible corporation. I love serving on boards for the experience of this diversity. It helps me with my solopreneur biz because you just never know where a great idea will come from! -:¦:- ♥ -:¦:- K.

    • The Mentor Guy says

      Thank you for your thoughts on this topic. It is the whole attitude of not being open to hear the new idea that seems to be the problem. Similar to those who walk in and around the garden and never once stop to smell the flowers all around them.

  7. Hi Mitch — very thought-provoking! I agree with Pinky — I am a bit of a cynic. I assume there is a strong monetary reason for him to join McDonald’s board (for him and for them — I’m sure it “looks” good for McDonalds to have him and helps with their reputation). Plus, I am sure being healthy isn’t his personal mission. He is likely focused on his own career advancement and compensation. This move could be a huge one for his own career.

    I love the image of rowers or bobbleheads. Hasn’t the Great Recession shown us that the old way of doing business doesn’t work and can’t be the future of our economy? Looking forward to parts 2,3 and 4 (and beyond!)

    • Jessica,
      I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Entitlement. This may really be the issue.
      I will need to think more about this one.

  8. Wow, I’m impressed! A ‘health’ person on the board of directors at the golden arches. I can’t even tell you how many years it has been since I ate anything at McDonald’s. Since almost the entire younger population uses it for three meal a day (oops, sarcasm leaked out!) any improvement would be good for our future.
    And bobble heads are definitely OUT! In cars and in boardrooms.
    Thanks for the post Mitch!

    • The Mentor Guy says

      Lynn, Thanks for taking the time to comment. Fast Food has taken such a foothold in our society.
      Just like the friendly Board of Directors. I wonder which habit is going to be easier to change?

  9. I can tell by reading your blog post Mitch that you are amazing at what you do! The way you process information, break it down, question it to come to an idea.

    very interesting!

  10. Mitch – Very thought-provoking…

    The natural cynic in me initially said “yeah, right”…but it will be interesting to see what the ultimate outcome in. Your post triggers another thought though, which is how “broken” the BoD function is in so many companies…

    I have had the pleasure/displeasure of serving on two boards for a short time frame and bobbleheads is such an apt description of many boards. The incestuous, self-serving nature of many board structures – with the perks/pay packages – makes for poor stewardship in many cases.

    A great board can be a godsend for a company (public or private) – but a bad one can really stink up the joint…


    • The Mentor Guy says

      Thanks, Phil. You know my view and I appreciate you sharing yours. Maybe we meet enough people in person and online and we start the process of ‘real’
      effective change in thinking and behavior.

  11. Mitch – I’m with Kiyla and Jessica and don’t see how it’s good for McDonalds. In my humble opinion nothing could convince me McDonalds is good..so I’m with Lynn on this too.
    All these revolving doors with BODs and CEOs are rather disturbing…

    • Thank you Trudy. It does make you wonder, however
      McD did request his appointment to their Board.

  12. Wow, that was an interesting question – and an interesting move on the part of McDonalds. Like Phil, I am fighting some cynicism here. I wonder if it is a move for PR or a move to really make an impact. I guess time will tell.

    Great post!

  13. This is a very interesting move! I personally am skeptical with nutritional products made by a company with “Labs” in the name. I believe that both companies will benefit as I am sure Abbott Labs will see a huge monetary gain by partnering with McDonalds and McDonalds will monetize by offering additional products…..but they better not change the BigMac! (I have never had one in my life)