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tomate, represented by its partner Sergio Guzmán, participates in the XI Human Management Congress in Argentina to be held on August 5th at the Teatro San Martin in Buenos Aires. In the panel “The Dark Side of Commitment”, he will present the relevance the matureness of the Board of Directors of a company has with the commitment the employees have in their organization.

The Dark Side of Commitment The fish rots from the head, Chinese expression that stands out that the Board of Directors, as head of the organization is key to have a culture that promotes compromise among people working their; on the contrary, the company will not stand for long. Commitment is the result of a tacit or formal agreement among people agreeing on a given delivery in a specific timing and form. Commitment is what he or she (or they) asks for or offers and he or she (or they) accepts to receive what is committed in the right time frame and form and that appraisal judgments will be made reciprocally in relation with what is committed by both parties. The commitment involves both parties, since who asks for or who receives the offer must state his or her judgments in time as well, and reward the fulfilling or compensate for and repair should he had not kept in force the validity of the request. As a result of these judgments there may be compensations and the trust capital for future commitments of the company will improve or decrease. For this process to occur, the commitment of the interlocutors required:

  1. Recognize each other and act as equals in the negotiation of what has been committed; the other party as a valid me. Freedom through the bargaining process to get the commitment is key to have a valid compromise from each part.
  2. To understand that what you want to keep is not the committed, but the trust relationship between both parts, that underlies the commitment.
  3. The ability of both sides to ponder, that is to say, to have the state of emotion to put in common the certainties each party has. The negotiation of both parties requires the necessary abilities and distinctions: knowing how to listen to others and listening to oneself; asking and wondering; observing and observing oneself.
  4. A culture that legitimizes these practices and the corporate value involved. That is to say, the culture of the company will be that culture supporting the commitment of each person with his company.

Is the Board of Directors who definitively sets the tone of the culture in the company, whether by act or omission? The practices of how the Board of Directors functions will develop more or less a culture where people are committed. If the relationship among the directors is not the adequate; if the coordination, focus and architecture of the information the Board of Directors counts on corresponds to an immature organization; if the relationship between the Board of Directors and the CEO is not supported by this reciprocal commitment approach, where both parties concur with the differences we have stated; if mistrust prevails; if the style is more purposeful than investigative; if definitely the commitment does not exist in this angular relationship, the rest of the company would not be able to obtain a high level of commitment of its collaborators. 

The belief that there is a direct connection between the board of directors and organizational success has been gaining ground lately, evidenced by the pressure shareholder activists have been exerting on boards for transparency as well as the “zombie director” movement to remove underperforming directors from boards.

But research into what actually makes for a better board — and ultimately, a more profitable organization — remains surprisingly scant. As a result, most companies rely on the “same old” approaches to screening for board directors, recruiting friends and others who they believe have appropriate experience and expertise.

There may, however, be a better way of not only screening for appropriate board directors, but managing the board’s interactions to generate economic value. My recent research provides evidence of what directors (and academics) have intuitively known for years but have been unable to verify — namely that the quality of board members’ interactions are crucial to board success. In an earlier study described on, I found that board members who didn’t know each other before joining the board were more likely to engage in productive cognitive conflict. This finding helped craft my subsequent research inquiry: What impact does board dynamics have on financial outcomes?  My research provides strong evidence supporting three findings:

  • “Cultural intelligence” of individual directors, or their predisposition to working well in teams, is critical in generating high-quality team dynamics (more below);
  • The quality of board-level team dynamics is highly correlated with firm profitability; and
  • Boards that are able to function effectively as a team have an 800% greater impact on firm profitability than any one well-qualified board director — in other words, and consistent with Aristotle’s observation, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I measured board dynamics with a new 30-item Team Dynamic assessment tool developed by Tony Lingham, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management, where I’m working on my doctorate. I surveyed 182 randomly chosen directors who, between them, served on the boards of 572 U.S. firms and had an average of 12 years of board experience. I asked them to rate their board’s interactions along ten behavioral attributes — engagement, active listening, individuality, relationality, solidarity, understanding, action, planning, power and influence, and openness. Then I asked them what their boards’ interactions in those areas would have to be like for them to be maximally effective. The diagnostic tool measured the gap between those two scores, and I found that boards with smaller gaps between the current dynamic and the maximally effective dynamic were more effective and their companies more profitable than those boards where the gap between current and desired dynamic is high.  At this point, I have personally worked with over 25 board teams, and the results are consistent — improve dynamics and overall board performance, creativity, innovation and satisfaction are enhanced.

The Team Dynamic assessment is a proprietary tool offered by Lingham’s firm, Interaction Science. I’m currently testing whether a similar diagnostic offered by Team Coaching International delivers equivalent results. Specialized team coaching can improve the dynamics of teams of all kinds — as yet unpublished research by Lingham shows that a single, two-hour team coaching session designed to address the gaps identified by the team diagnostic assessment can improve team dynamics scores  from 48% to 191% within one month.  These improvements proved to be sustainable over time.

To measure a director’s predisposition to working well in teams, I turned to the cultural intelligence assessment originally developed by Purdue University’s P. Christopher Earley (see “Cultural Intelligence” by Earley and Elaine Mosakowski in the October 2004 HBR). The questions I asked were drawn from the 20-Item Four Factor Cultural Intelligence Scale published by the Cultural Intelligence Center. CQ grew out of the concept of emotional intelligence, and appears to more applicable to team interactions than the more didactic manager-employee relationships targeted by EQ. CQ assesses a person’s ability to make sense of unfamiliar contexts and “fit in.”  What I found was that board members’ CQ scores were a much stronger predictor of boards’ team dynamics, as measured by the team assessment tool, than their professional qualifications or their social/business networks alone.

The lessons here are pretty clear. Boards can improve their performance by focusing on team dynamics. The key steps to take are:

  • Determine your board’s dynamic.  If it’s healthy, great!  If it’s weak, there’s work to be done to best position the board to meet its fiduciary responsibilities — that is, to have a positive bottom-line impact.
  • Rethink your recruiting criteria.  My prior research showed that recruiting “strangers” to boards tends to generate higher levels of governance quality. This research implies that boards should screen directors for CQ to ensure that the director has the skill and motivation to work well with the existing board.
  • Get team coaching.  If there are gaps in your team dynamics, team coaching really can help. Transforming a weak board to a strong board is not investment-intensive, and the benefits are significant.


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Estelle Métayer in her article Boards of directors: less oversight, more foresight?, said:

“As long as boards of directors remain homogeneous, they will, by definition, be biased. One of the solutions is to force diversity among board members in order to bring in the external expertise necessary for the future of the company. This diversity might be geographical, such as including on the board an independent board member who, for example, knows China well. Diversity might also be linked to bringing in new skills (such as including a board member who understands the issues related to social media) or even match more closely the segmentation of the customers.”

However, diversity is not always  a good idea. At tomate, we think that if we want to succeed in a diversified world the board of directors should have the ability to celebrate the differences or experience them within a serenity framework that will take full advantage of this greater diversity.

We must learn to live in diversity and this learning is not cognitive but emotional, basically. We shape our personalities in sharing diverse backgrounds and if there is diversity, change is more enriching. But if we cannot co-exist in diversity, it is better to have a more homogeneous board of directors, even with the blindness this necessarily implies. If we want to build a better board of directors, then we must have the means to live in this state of greater diversity that allows generating more value for everyone if each director validates others even if they do not share his or her opinion. Living in diversity as an attribute to foresee is like running the Ironman; it is not just go and run. We must learn and “train”, basically  putting ourselves in the others’ shoes to understand why they say what they say, as a valid observer for who does not share his or her opinion. to


THOSE of us who still read newspapers over breakfast have had a delicious choice of late: do we start with the story about Bradford’s crystal Methodist or the one about Toronto’s stuporman? Paul Flowers, the former chairman of Britain’s Co-
operative Bank and a Methodist minister, allegedly bought cocaine and crystal meth for a “drug-fuelled” orgy. Rob Ford, Toronto’s mayor, has finally admitted, after months of denials, that he smoked crack cocaine—before adding the comforting proviso that he only did it in “one of my drunken stupors”.

What does any of this have to do with Schumpeter’s home territory of chief executives? Mr Flowers was no banker: he rose through the co-operative movement’s political structures. Mr Ford is an elected politician. But they nevertheless illustrate a problem too often ignored in business, where people are much happier talking about dollars than dolour: how can you tell when a boss is showing signs that he may go off the rails? And what should be done about it?

The corner office is almost a factory for personal problems. Chief executives are under greater pressure to perform at the best of times; how much greater in periods of economic turbulence. Yet at the same time power corrupts. In experiments social scientists have shown, by giving random subjects power over others, that even in small doses it produces overconfidence, insensitivity and an urge to associate with other people with power.

Chief executives’ oddities can lead to complete corporate breakdown: it is impossible to read about the implosions at WorldCom or Hollinger or the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) without being astonished by the bosses’ behaviour. But even in less dysfunctional firms the whims of the man at the top can cause damaging depression or sycophancy below. Chief executives are the nearest things democracies have to sun kings.

An obvious sign of a boss breaking bad is grandiosity. He attributes the company’s success wholly to himself, indulges in endless self-promotion or demands ever more extravagant rewards. Jean- Marie Messier, who transformed Vivendi from a staid water utility into a media conglomerate that ran up huge losses, borrowed his nickname—“J6M”, which stands for “Jean-Marie Messier Moi-Même-Maître-du-Monde”—for the title of his autobiography. One study shows that chief executives who appear on the covers of business magazines are more likely to make foolish acquisitions. A second sign is over-control. The boss surrounds himself with yes-men and crushes dissent. He tries to control every detail of corporate life rather than building a strong executive team. A third sign is distorted decision-making. The chief conflates personal and corporate assets, is obsessed with buying other companies, or focuses on bizarre details. Mr Messier spent $17.5m of Vivendi’s money on a New York apartment for his personal use. Fred Goodwin, boss of RBS, micromanaged the building of a £350m ($630m) head office, called “Fredtown” by his underlings, and found time to redesign the bank’s Christmas cards.

A chief executive becomes likelier to succumb to these vanities the longer he stays in the job. He gets used to people fawning over him. He measures himself against other inhabitants of Planet Davos, not those Barack Obama calls “regular folk”. Percy Barnevik, the boss of Asea Brown Boveri, an engineering conglomerate, was widely hailed as “Europe’s answer to Jack Welch”. But the comparison went to his head: he pursued ever more reckless acquisitions and got himself awarded a tax-free pension of $87m. A boss may think himself so brilliant he refuses to plan for his eventual departure or undermines possible successors. Armand Hammer, of Occidental Petroleum, asked his board to agree to a long-term bonus plan, with a ten-year payout, when in his 90s.

What can companies do to stop the boss behaving oddly—ideally, before he starts? In a recent study MWM Consulting, a firm of headhunters, argues that boards need to make “behavioural risk” a standard part of their agenda. This might well include taking soundings from senior management. Chairmen also need to start talking to chief executives about the personal side of the job when they are first appointed, and keep talking afterwards.

Remember the Little Bighorn

However, the best answer lies with chief executives themselves, who must recognise that the biggest threat to their success may lie within. They need to cultivate the art of seeing themselves as others see them. Kevin Sharer, the former boss of Amgen, a biotech company, used to get his direct reports to list his strengths and weaknesses annually for the board. He also kept a painting of General Custer in his office as a warning against hubris.

The business world is starting to take these problems seriously. One of the most popular courses at Harvard Business School is Clayton Christensen’s course on how businesspeople should guard

against an obsession with short-term success. About 40% of the heads of FTSE 100 companies employ “personal coaches”. Chief executives last half as long in the job, on average, as they did a decade ago. That may be bad for their nerves, but it makes them less likely to be become marinated in power.

That said, it is foolish to treat a cold as a cancer. Bosses have a right to privacy. In recent years Boeing and Hewlett-Packard have erred in disposing of chief executives after consensual affairs. The border between eccentricity and brilliance can be blurred. Bosses are peculiar anyway: more ambitious and more self-confident than the rest of us. Some of the most creative people in business have been very peculiar indeed: Henry Ford loved conspiracy theories of the blackest hue; Thomas Watson of IBM commissioned company songs in his own honour. The most important business decisions are still, as they have always been, nuanced ones about character and its complexities.

Schumpeter: Going off the rails | The Economist

against an obsession with short-term success. About 40% of the heads of FTSE 100 companies employ “personal coaches”. Chief executives last half as long in the job, on average, as they did a decade ago. That may be bad for their nerves, but it makes them less likely to be become marinated in power.

That said, it is foolish to treat a cold as a cancer. Bosses have a right to privacy. In recent years Boeing and Hewlett-Packard have erred in disposing of chief executives after consensual affairs. The border between eccentricity and brilliance can be blurred. Bosses are peculiar anyway: more ambitious and more self-confident than the rest of us. Some of the most creative people in business have been very peculiar indeed: Henry Ford loved conspiracy theories of the blackest hue; Thomas Watson of IBM commissioned company songs in his own honour. The most important business decisions are still, as they have always been, nuanced ones about character and its complexities. (

Calm coherence and consistency in the tasks of the General Manager or CEO of a company, are not common features of the corporate world prevailing in our culture nowadays. Like a dinosaur that refuses to give up its seat of power, leadership is still understood in connection with power rather than service. It is a growing concern in the analysis and study of corporate management and especially in the field of corporate governance, the behavioral excesses that the present leadership culture originates in many General Managers in the world: being surrounded “yes men and women!”, CEOs are considered the only architects of the successes and lashers of those who are responsible for the failures; the CEOs appropriation of the benefits and incomes over their true market value and the minimum sense of fairness to the detriment of the rest of employees of the company, especially the lower echelon workers; the exploitation of relationships with strategic suppliers to receive the benefits of being congratulated by the Board of Directors in the short term by receiving juicy bonuses; to commit their word with such liberality that, in the same manner as they make their promises, they unilaterally change their commitments both in time and in form, they may even take them back. All this is the product of our present leadership culture, which still dominates the class rooms in the business administration teaching world. Undoubtedly this leadership vision does not explicitly encourage these dissonant practices, but they are the natural outcome of the set of emotions on which this notion of leadership over reason is based and the interests that are embodied by the head of an organization, who receives the power from its Board of Directors, that only hopes that he will get the expected results. Fortunately, there are greenshoots predicting changes, not matter how marginal they are. Companies that are aware of the excesses in the behavior of these CEOs have implemented, sometimes by the own initiative of these heads that understand the risks of wielding so much power, annual report systems for their Board of Directors, where the reports of the CEOs anonymously assess the good and bad characteristics of the way their boss guides the team and the company that the Board of Directors has requested them; therefore, the organization and the General Manager himself may have the checks and balances to avoid the head losing the focus of acting with coherence and calm to confirm, serve and nurture the company’s teams.


tomate® has developed collaboration relationships with persons and companies that, sharing basic styles and tenets, complement our value offer for the development of the corporate governance practices.

parteners home®

En® estamos convencidos que lo que “la lleva” en nuestro siglo, son las relaciones. Las organizaciones están formadas por personas y, dentro de su individualidad como seres humanos, debemos potenciar su desarrollo, entendimiento, formas relacionales; en definitiva, lo humano.

The Paradigma Commitment

The Paradigma Commitment [TPC] is a company based in Monterrey, Mexico. The company started operations in 2000 with the following areas of expertise:

  • Strategic alignment and mobilization
  • Redesigning business processes and value networks
  • Executive leadership and development
  • Administrating innovation