In the fourth part of our five-part series, we look at how board agendas can be best shaped by leveraging collective expertise for informed decisions.    In other words, collaboration is key to future thinking.

Our research* shows that board executives recognise that collaboration is essential for unlocking transformation in their organisation, for their sector, and for their communities. And it will continue to be important as the business landscape continues to change; seven in 10 executives say that greater collaboration needs to take the place of top-down leadership in the next economy.

So how can boards protect and nurture collaboration within and beyond their organisation? General counsel plays a vital role in connecting internal departments and enabling strategic external partnerships.

Collaboration and connection are key

Drawing from a range of perspectives allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the world, which leads us to smarter decisions, clearer communication, fresh ideas, and creative solutions to our problems. Collaborating on board strategy means that the business agenda benefits from the varied expertise of those at the table – including different opinions on risk, more balanced priorities, and fewer blind spots.

General counsel have broad oversight of every organisational department, as well as a keen awareness of what shareholders, employees, customers and industry experts care about most. This makes their involvement in board strategy crucial for aligning agendas with a diverse range of interests and concerns.

Besides, general counsel are already adept at building relationships and sharing best practice. Succeeding in their role typically means they are working with legal counterparts in other organisations, participating in professional networks and establishing lines of communication and trust across their industry. Along with their expertise in risk and regulation, general counsel brings to the board table significant experience in facilitating the exchange of ideas and the development of learning opportunities.

And when challenges arise, who has the skills to facilitate constructive dialogue and mediation to resolve issues, if not senior legal teams? Being able to proactively identify potential areas of disagreement can help boards to avoid outright conflict, preserve positive relationships, and maintain their strategic course once it’s set.

Collaboration between companies can unlock a wealth of opportunities through sharing resources, pooling knowledge, and extending reach. Again, setting up a successful alliance comes down to the capabilities of general counsel.

Deciding whether a partnership opportunity is a good fit – commercially, competitively, legally – can be an early hurdle. Finding potential legal risks and ensuring that the collaboration complies with relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards requires due diligence from in-house legal teams.

Coordinating contractual processes demands legal team management, from negotiations to defining the objectives, scope, roles, responsibilities, and governance structures of the collaboration.

And, throughout the lifetime of each partnership, legal expertise is going to guide the governance mechanisms for collaboration, including decision-making, reporting structures, risk management and conflict resolution.

Internal collaboration helps boards work as a unified governing body that reflects the needs of its stakeholders and operates with an expansive view of the horizon. External collaboration unlocks exciting opportunities for companies to expand in ways that are inaccessible alone. Many of the dynamics underpinning successful collaboration overlap with the skills, attributes, and responsibilities of senior in-house legal teams, making a compelling argument for general counsel to have a central role in both the collaborative strategy and strategic collaboration of their organisations.

With the help of general counsel, boards can tap into existing knowledge and abilities from across the business to enhance decision-making, confidently shape their new board agenda and drive the success of their organisation.

Success is often attributed to a progressive mindset, so boards can expect the unexpected, with new challenges always around the corner. 

* We conducted opinion research amongst 550 UK board members or equivalent across six sectors, in Spring 2023, under the ethical research guidelines set by both the MRS (Market Research Society) and ESOMAR.

Date published

10 April 2024


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