Boards have existed since the 17th or 18th century in different forms and with evolving functions. They’ve evolved very slowly and been very reactive to change, relative to other corporate functions. In this podcast Jaime Grego-Mayor: Managing Partner, Advisory Board Architects talks to Mark Hamill about how to become a board member and add value to a board.
Summary text of Global Conference Call
Jaime Grego-Mayor: Managing Partner, Advisory Board Architects
Let me give you a very brief bit of history of boards. Boards have existed since the 17th or 18th century in different forms and with evolving functions. They’ve evolved very slowly and been very reactive to change, relative to other corporate functions.
Through an ongoing cycle of corporate scandal à new rules à corporate scandal, BoDs have been saddled with new and ever more complex requirements. This has been to the detriment of other key functions of the board, like strategy formation and company growth.
This has affected mostly publicly listed companies, while basically ignoring the needs of the vast majority of companies, the unlisted. It has, however, affected how those companies consider governance and boards by way of so called best practices. Governance has become, for many, a necessary evil of no real benefit.
Boards are the apex of companies, with a non-executive role that can accurately be described as governance, but there is a great difference between complying with governance rules to the letter and having true good governance. Having a board that is solely centered on control is grievously underutilizing its capacity. At ABA, we know companies can and should improve board performance to use 100% of their capacity and create high and quantifiable strategic impact.
This is especially true in unlisted companies where ownership and decision making is concentrated. These companies do not need complex shareholder representation structures, but they do need a group that will provide a sounding board, support and subject matter expertise to the CEO. This can be done through the conventional Fiduciary Board of Directors structure, but can also frequently be done as effectively through non-fiduciary Advisory Board structures.
It’s done by starting with the end in mind. A company needs to think of 3 things when considering its board: WHY, WHO and HOW.
First: WHY they want a board. What are the mid and long- term goals that a group of subject matter experts should help them to achieve.
Then, and only then, consider WHO to put on the board: people who will drive the company towards the WHY.
Finally, HOW to run an effective board process to maximize impact. What structure, meeting cadence, and the process before, during and after meetings.
From that background, let me pull out strands that are important as you consider being a board member. Again, start with the end in mind: WHY, WHO and HOW.
WHY do you want to be a board member? It should be to have a high impact on the company and yourself as well, through the learning this experience provides.
WHO should you want to be a board member for:
First, change your concept of the post from board member to board leader. Clubs have members. Boards need leaders.
Be a board leader where your experience and expertise is directly applicable and impactful to helping the company go from where it is to where it wants to be. Where you can be the right WHO to their WHY.
Be a board leader where you will not be alone as an independent thinker. WHO will sit around the table with you? Will it be enriching to you to sit with them?
Be a board leader where you see there is a good board process, a good HOW:
Where the role of the board is not only control, but also business strategy and growth; where the board is well run; where each meeting has a clearly set out agenda; where good documentation is sent out in time; where board, and board leaders are evaluated. And most importantly, where executives are prepared to listen and learn from their board.
Important steps to take to get the first board seat:
First, get trained. Governance organizations around the world offer this kind of training (more focused on traditional governance). ABA offers training as well, focused more around strategic impact and effective planning for getting that board seat.
Second, adapt your resume for board positions. Consider and highlight those areas of expertise that make you more unique. Go beyond strategic thinking and generalist knowledge to subject matter expertise.
Third, get involved. This can be done through mentorship programs for smaller companies or sitting on the board of an interesting non-profit.
Fourth, get networked. Talk to people like ABA, SF and other headhunters, PE funds that invest in company types where you could have impact, auditors and lawyers (who often act as board secretaries).
Fifth, review your contacts and talk to people who are directors, advisors or CEOs that you respect and who respect you, about the idea of having a board of directors or board of advisors – or a better one than they do now – and how this can make their company perform significantly better.
Sixth, don’t take the first board seat that’s offered without making sure you will be able to truly impact the board and the company as a board leader. Having that impact will be rewarding and make you feel engaged. At ABA we’ve found that the most important indicator of board effectiveness is board leader engagement.
Finally: Your most valuable and irreplaceable asset is your time, use it wisely.
Get involved with boards where you will enrich others and be enriched. Get involved with boards where you feel engaged. Get involved with boards where you will create true IMPACT.
SpenglerFox wraps up the summer with discussions on talent motivation and agility with clients in the Czech Republic On Thursday, 30 August, SpenglerFox consultants led by Michal Vajskebr met with between 20-30 of the firm’s top clients in Prague to wrap up the summer holidays with some good food and drink and exciting discussions. The event took place in the Černá labuť (Black Swan) Gallery with its splendid view of parts of Prague's Old Town and Letná Hill. The main draw for the event was two very successful and interesting speakers, who came to share their experiences in executive leadership teams throughout the region. The topic of the evening was how to inspire and motivate good talent with a focus on retention. The expert discussion panel, moderated by Michal Vajskebr, included Martin Horčička, COO at Wüstenrot and Ján Čarný, managing director at COFACE. Comments by the panelists led to some interesting discussions and delivery of insights on what attendees’ personal leadership experiences and challenges they faced in the past taught them about team-building and motivating managers to perform. Martin Horčička (Wüstenrot): Martin’s experience is specific in that he has done a lot of interim management consultancy and worked in teams where he was brought in to manage a business turn around. His biggest challenges related to building and nurturing trust among members of the teams he managed. He pointed out in his remarks that the best first step, when new to a leadership situation, is to find the commonalities that you have with your team; specifically, when working in multicultural environments. One issue that Martin pointed out is that many managers, workers, team leaders, etc. are looking for a higher purpose in their day-to-day jobs. They want to be part of something bigger. He noted that when discussing difficult operational changes with teams he led in Western Europe, there was greater comprehension and respect from his employees once he convinced them he shared their concerns and passion for the future of the company. He noted that during his time in Belgium, the workers in the team he led had a personal investment, feeling-wise, in the company they worked for and wanted to ensure its viable future. Martin pointed out that one way to involve team members and secure their commitment to business plans was to seek their input in defining the company's business strategy. On the executive leadership side, he recommended taking the time to evaluate managerial talent and measure their personal investment in or commitment to the company vision or strategy. He noted that team members are more likely to deliver better results when they know they are trusted and company leadership is willing to give them the freedom to be creative. He underscored the need for executive leaders to foster constant dialogue with their managers and team members: help your talent understand there is no shame in asking question or seeking assistance. You'll be surprised at the results you can achieve when you set talent free to be creative and engage. Ján Čárny (COFACE): in his opening remarks, Ján reiterated Martin's comments that people really should like their work. He noted that local and regional markets have evolved quite a lot since his first years working in the Czech Republic in the investment banking industry. He pointed out that during that time most business leaders in Central Europe had yet to come across the concepts of corporate vision or company mission. Ján mentioned that, for him personally, one of the key motivators for excelling at work is the challenge that a given job or assignment poses. He had worked on finance-related projects on the Czech market, but then moved on to take on regional roles in Poland and later Ukraine. He noted that managing teams in diverse markets in the CEE region was fulfilling for him, because he got to see how corporate structures function in other regional markets. He also had the opportunity to contrast leadership roles in corporate vs. more family-style businesses. Over the years and across various national teams, Ján has come to see understanding of a company's business model as being mission-critical. He is constantly speaking with managers and their team members to find out what they do and why. He noted that problems most often arise when people do not understand their role in the business. It is important that executive leadership support teams in the creative aspects of defining and implementing business plans: executives should empower their teams by saying what to do, the team then says how to do it. Remarks from the two main speakers were followed by contributions from local and regional business leaders contributing to an open discussion forum. Some key points raised included the following: it’s important for executives to assess and define what existing operational systems work and not just pursue slash-and-burn policies (what to keep vs. what to discard); executive leadership increasingly appreciates how value for the company was achieved over the mere creation of value (teams should achieve results based on honest, transparent business plans); observe your talent, especially among younger generations, and find a way to balance their need to create and achieve with the results your company needs to deliver; focus on inter-personal relationships and building trust and mutual respect among your employees (corporate life produces a lot of unforeseen and sometimes unpleasant situations; you may perhaps have to fire your colleagues but, with politeness and respect, you can nurture those relationships and build new ties in the future); foster an environment that supports openness, honesty and authenticity (even regional cultures that have a tradition of operating based on 1:1 or closed-door meetings can be rebuilt). For further information please contact Michal Vajskebr. Image : Pixabay
Even though the Middle East emerged much later than Europe and the US on the international business scene, numerous conglomerates and multinational companies have established some kind of a set-up in the region. Attracted by the promising growth potential, many multinationals have built large local and regional teams in the main cities such as Istanbul, Cairo, Dubai, Casablanca or Riyadh. Just like anywhere else on the planet, the progress of telecommunication, the increasing interconnectivity of cities by plane and the hiring of the first millennials, have shaken the established organizations to their core. Working space is expected to be friendly of modern design and even a place where you can have fun in. Permanent email and phone connectivity blurs the boundaries between home and work space. Businesses in the region are now challenging the traditional office space, where employees worked a rigid 9am to 6pm shift sitting at their desk. Video conferencing, informal meetings, and work on a project-basis require additional facilities. One of the growing trends in the Middle East, which is gaining popularity day by day, is the flexibility for employees to work from home. Some of the cities in the region, more particularly Istanbul and Cairo, face horrendous traffic. It is not unusual for employees to spend 3 to 4 hours a day commuting. It is thus no surprise that home-office flexibility becomes as important as remuneration, benefits and job content, when it comes to attracting or retaining talent. In the recent years, multinationals have started to adopt an open space set-up to reflect their values of transparency and teamwork. Directors and Managers are now invited to join their teams in an open space. Meeting rooms offer the required confidentiality for conferences and sensitive conversations. This is sometimes hard to digest in a region where a private office stands for position and status. An even more advanced form of this trend is desk-sharing. The idea came as a solution to reducing office costs, which may well be the second largest expenditure after payroll, while desks are often underutilised. Consultancy firms whose teams often spend most of their time at client sites, lead that initiative, which enabled them to improve their P&L significantly. Newly-founded businesses are early adopters of nomadic work habits. Co-working is booming in cities like Dubai, a hub for regional start-ups. Flexible desks and meeting areas are offered by well-known global players in flexible workspace solutions, however independent co-working spaces are flourishing. Even the government-managed free-zones are now offering workspace to newly registered companies. This whitepaper attempts to highlight trends on the workspace evolution in the Middle East region, and how the latter impacts on international businesses. We believe the best way to explore these trends would be through testimonies of people that have led and/or coordinated their implementation in their business environment. We selected key note speakers, each one representing one of four key markets in the region: Dubai, Egypt, Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia(KSA) and asked them the same questions for consistency. We hope that our exercise will provide you with interesting insights and perhaps some food for thought. Africa_MiddleEast_FLEXIBLE_WAYS_OF_WORKING.pdf Size: 2.98 MB
We are delighted to announce the hire of Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology “Based in Dubai, Eva will support our clients in both Executive Search assignments and Human Capital Services projects (Leadership Development, Assessment Centres, HR organization…). Having worked in multinational enterprises and family groups (Unilever, Amazon, FANUC, Lindab, Wadi Group), Eva has gained a broad cultural and professional expertise while working in Germany, Luxembourg, Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Egypt and Kuwait. Along her career, Eva grew her expertise in Talent, Change and Performance Management and Recruitment/Talent Acquisition. Eva holds a Master degree in Economics from the University of Passau, Germany, and an MBA General Management from the European University of Economics and Management in Luxembourg. She earned a Doctorate of Business Administration from Surrey Business School, UK, with the doctoral thesis titled “Talent Management in Luxembourg”. Eva is a fellow of the University Forum of Human Resource Development (UFHRD) and the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM). Eva speaks German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Portuguese.” Says Cedric d'Halluin, Partner, Emerging Markets - Middle East, Africa, Russia, Turkey. “I am thrilled to join a multi-cultural team of Executive Searchers and HR professionals in a company that is grounded on high ethical values and family spirit with a strong customer-centric approach.” Says Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology.