Sitting in the client lounge of Sheffield's 22nd floor offices in downtown Auckland's ASB Bank building, Ian Taylor looks more relaxed than usual. Or perhaps that is just my take on his demeanour. He certainly smiles more and seems both philosophical and enthusiastic about his new "old" role. "I am happy to be back consulting," he says reflectively. "I have a lot of additional experience to give back to the business and on which to base my advice to clients."
Taylor's 'three plus two year' stint as managing director of what is probably New Zealand's largest home-grown executive recruitment, search, remuneration and organisational performance consultancy ended on June 30. Christien Winter, a partner and director at Sheffield since 1995, has stepped up to the plate. She will drive the business leaving Taylor responsible for the consultancy's national executive search practice, Sheffield Accord. He will also continue to drive Sheffield's Academy of Corporate Governance, which he established last year.
"Having managed the business [through an admittedly tough period] makes my advice more credible and substantial than it might have been had I not managed a complex business like this," he adds. "It is time to refresh emotionally and physically and I am looking forward to it."
Taylor has successfully boosted Sheffield's commitment to the governance market, more than doubling the number of directors the company recruits for boards each year and offering board performance evaluations for many of New Zealand's largest enterprises. "People now want to talk to us about governance, governance practice, board evaluation and board effectiveness, as well as retaining and developing talent at both senior executive and governance levels," he says.
The danger in taking Sheffield down the governance track was that the upsurge in interest in compliance and governance issues generally might prove to be yet another organisational fad. Having poured development funds into new services, would the landscape change? "It hasn't and it won't," Taylor says confidently.
"There will be more board accountability in future, not less. Governance is about people and performance. It is about attracting talented people with specific skills onto boards, working with them as a team and delivering competitive value in strategy and compliance knowledge, one company against another," he adds.
Taylor believes the adage that performance is about competition between one management team and another has changed. It is, he says, about governance and management teams working together, one pitched against another. And it is in that market that he believes Sheffield is now well positioned, offering services to both the management and governance levels of the organisation.
The evolution of the role of boards and directors and the rules prescribing their responsibilities is encouraging many individuals to re-think their interest in joining a board. It will, says Taylor, become increasingly difficult for organisations to "find people who are willing and able to be directors in a more accountable world". It is, therefore, increasingly important that companies and organisations like the Institute of Directors and consultancies, focus on developing, encouraging and sup porting directors because they add "a great deal of value at the strategic level".
Boards need the right combination of skills and aptitudes that recognise the uniqueness of the businesses they run and the development strategies they need in place at governance level to increase competitive advantage, market share, productivity, growth and profitability. …