News

“Critical Friend” – advisor for the Audit Committee (voluntary role)

Release Date: 28-Apr-2015
We are looking for an accountant or auditor or similar with an interest in taking a “Critical Friend” role for the company’s Audit Committee. If you have sound finance and audit experience, an ability to listen, challenge and support, and you can spare two hours every two months to share your professional skills we would like to hear from you.

The role is unpaid but reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed.

A critical friend can be defined as “a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a (company’s) work as a friend, A critical friend takes time to fully understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working towards. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work.” (Costa, A & Kallick, B, 1993: Through the Lens of a Critical Friend)

What a Critical Friend does:

1. Listen
2. Support
3. Challenge
4. Question/ask
5. Advise
6. Act as a sounding board
7. Stretch the company to be its best
8. Highlight contradictions
9. Maintain focus
10. Reflect and mirror
11. Understand and respect confidentiality
12. Encourage dialogue
13. Model best practice
14. Share professional skills
15. Help chairs/board members to scan the horizon to see what policy issues are coming up and what is best practice elsewhere

What a Critical Friend does not do:

1. Direct
2. Solve
3. Make decisions
4. Vote at Board or Committee meetings
5. Offer “quick fixes”
6. Judge
7. Impose own agenda
8. Undermine
9. Criticise
10. Divide and rule
11. Get involved in the day to day
12. Receive payment or personal benefit other than wellbeing

Duties and Responsibilities
1. To abide by the Code of Conduct
2. To uphold the company’s values
3. To respond when consulted by the Board, collectively or individually
4. To act in accordance with the model behaviour outlined above (see “What a Critical Friend does”)

Communication
The Critical Friend will generally have a role to play in a specified meeting, or series of meetings. Should they feel that it would be relevant to that role to attend any other company meeting they should seek the permission of the Chair of that meeting in advance, and with an explanation of why it would potentially be helpful to the company.

The Critical Friend will generally make most of their contribution within the meeting or series of meetings they have been invited to attend; however, there may well be occasions when s/he needs to reflect or research after a meeting to be able to provide appropriate advice or challenge. The communication route outside of the meeting should usually be the Chair of that meeting; other potential contacts may be the Chair of the Board, a member of the Senior Management Team, or the Company Secretary. However while it is recognised that a Critical Friend may need recourse to someone removed from the immediate situation (for example in cases of suspected malpractice, or where the Critical Friend is finding it difficult to carry out their agreed role) this should be viewed as the exception rather than the rule, and the Critical Friend should be aware that it may not be possible to maintain confidentiality where, for example, other company policies may require implementation.

If you would like more information about being a “Critical Friend”, or about KNH’s Audit Committee, or you would like to express an interest in the role please email rhona.davidson@knh.org.uk