How do directors preserve board culture and collegiality during challenging situations? For example, adding an activist, activist-designated director, or other directors designated or nominated outside a company’s normal nomination structure often disrupts the board’s normal processes and deliberations. Similarly, bringing on several new directors over a relatively short time period as part of board refreshment can lead to temporary disruptions and loss of historical and institutional knowledge that may diminish the board’s effectiveness. Based on their experience with these situations, our panelists offer their perspectives on how to preserve board culture and maintain board effectiveness during disruptive periods.
Sharon Nelson served as an independent director of Itron, Inc. from 2003 until 2016. Itron is among the leading technology and services companies dedicated to the resourceful use of electricity, natural gas and water. Sharon also served as chief of the Consumer Protection Division of the Washington State Attorney General’s Office from 2003 to 2006, and as director of the Shidler Center for Law, Commerce, and Technology at the University of Washington from 2000 to 2003. In addition, Sharon has been a consultant to both corporations and nonprofit organizations specializing in advice on public policy and regulation. In the past she has served as chair of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission and as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. Sharon served as a commissioner on the National Commission on Energy Policy from 2002 to 2010, and in 2011 she was co-chair of the State Energy Strategy Advisory Committee for the State of Washington. Previously, Sharon was a member of the Board of Trustees of the North American Electrical Reliability Corporation (NERC) based in Princeton, New Jersey. NERC’s members consist of the owners, operators, and users of the North American bulk electrical system.
Bob Wolfe is currently Chairman of Red Lion Hotels Corporation (NYSE: RLH), and a director of Symetra Financial Corporation and Toyota AI Ventures. He began his investment banking career at Merrill Lynch providing investment banking services for financial institutions. Later, he moved to Goldman Sachs where provided advisory and corporate finance services to major international financial institutions in Japan, Hong Kong and Europe.Â In 1995, Bob returned to Washington State and began investing in businesses in the Pacific Northwest. He led a Vancouver-based telecommunications company that would move to Toronto, go public and become Canada’s largest independent competitive local exchange carrier. Bob was named a General Partner of Northwest Venture Associates (NWVA) in 2002. He served as a Managing Partner of NWVA from 2005 through 2008. With its three funds, NWVA invested in over 30 early stage companies.Â Bob is a former Governance Fellow and member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). His past board positions include three banking institutions and four public companies.Â He serves on the National Board of Advisors (NBoA) for the College of Business at Washington State University and is a past Chairman. He was the founding Chairman of its International Advisory Board. He previously served on the Advisory Board for the School of Business Administration at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) in Chengdu, China. In addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington State University, he holds an MBA from Pacific Lutheran University and studied at the Stern School of Business at New York University.