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Transitioning from Executive to the Boardroom – 6 key factors to consider

In my regular meetings with business leaders from the financial services sector, we nearly always discuss their ongoing challenges for the recruitment and retention of key staff. In this context it can seem inappropriate to discuss their own career plans in the same conversation, especially if it means leaving their current employer.

So, when I invited those same executives to discuss adding ‘Board Director’ to their career accomplishments at a Slade Executive Boardroom Lunch, I wasn’t surprised that spaces at the table filled quickly.

Led by experienced Director and Boardroom consultant, Nicholas Barnett, we discussed Australian boardrooms now and moving into the future.

While Boards are still heavily populated with older white males who have been approached directly through their own network, we are definitely seeing changes to this long established practice. More progressive Boards are recognising the value of greater diversity amongst Directors, challenging gender, generational and sociocultural norms. Nor are successful companies promoting diversity simply to achieve compliance or a feel good factor. Numerous studies have shown that best results are achieved where there is greater diversity in the Board of Directors and Executive team. The Australian Institute of Company Directors publishes regular research and reports on board diversity.

Board recruitment processes are changing too. Nicholas, through his company InSync, is regularly being engaged by Board Chairs to undertake Board reviews to identify strengths and capability gaps. From these reviews new Directors are being appointed. Yes, the traditional networks are still prevalent, however, we’re encouraged to see that the trend towards a structured and independent recruitment process for Board positions, facilitated by engaging external consultants such as an Executive Search firm, is becoming standard practice.

If you’re considering adding a board role to your executive responsibilities or transitioning your career to the Boardroom, here are the key factors to consider:

 

  • Board positions are highly competitive. According to Nicholas, the number of people interested in joining a Board has increased significantly, whilst the number of roles has remained largely unchanged over the last ten years. Therefore, you must be able to articulate what you can bring to the Boardroom and how you can make a positive contribution.

 

 

  • As in any role you’ve had in your career, you will be more engaged within an industry or company that you are passionate about. Your network or an Executive Search consultant can help you to identify suitable organisations that align with your interests, as well as your knowledge and experience.

 

 

  • Do your due diligence. You want to be part of an effective Board, and Boardroom culture is often set by the Chairperson. Insist on meeting other directors, as well as the Chair, to evaluate whether others are engaged.

 

 

  • A Board position involves a significant time commitment – can you fit it in with your other responsibilities?

 

 

  • If it’s your first time looking for a Board role, consider Not-For-Profits or unpaid roles, keeping in mind that many NFPs have high profile Board members who have a number of Directorships. Over time, opportunities to be considered for Corporate Board positions may present through this wider network.

 

 

  • Don’t leave it until you are at the end of your executive career. Consider your first Board appointment in parallel with your current role to see if it’s really for you. While establishing a track record as a Director, you’ll build a network of fellow Directors, which can lead to a growing portfolio of Directorships as you wind down your executive career.

 

What are your key considerations for a boardroom position?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

The unknown executive

The setting: Any meeting room in corporate Australia

The situation: Executive committee meeting

The room dynamics: Hearty conversations interspersed with nervous politeness

The issue: Who is that executive at the table no-one knows?

Sounds familiar doesn’t it. Welcome to the world of the repatriated expat.

Unfortunately many senior executives face challenges on return to the corporate office after years abroad leading the operations of an off-shore subsidiary or working in the overseas office of a global entity. It’s probably not surprising that nearly 90% of returning expats leave their current employer within 12 months of returning to Australia. The result is a major loss of experience, expertise, corporate knowledge and business networks that may have taken years to cultivate… not to mention the negative internal employee relations.

How can that be when the executive is offered and relishes the time to build his or her career and gain invaluable international experience? They run with the opportunity to learn new skills and develop the expertise critical to the ongoing growth of the organisation. And their family experiences a life changing experience in a different culture, education system, social environment, and diverse expat and local community.

Wind the clock forward as the executive rings up corporate head office after a few years of stellar performance in the international operations. “My time is up and I would like to discuss coming back to Australia…” pregnant pause “…we will come back to you.”

In the meantime, the executive office has been restructured, key executives have moved on or into new roles with different responsibilities, the business model has changed dramatically as new strategies start to re-shape the business, and the competitive environment has become intense. All of a sudden all the experience and expertise captured overseas no longer appears to be as valuable as previously expected. So what to do?

When that international opportunity opens up, executives can do well to consider three possible options, and plan accordingly.

    1. Three years or less: the most promising, although least likely. The executive will complete an international role, have constant contact with the corporate office and key executive sponsors, and plan a return well in advance; in a very small number of cases, plan a return before they start the international assignment.

 

    1. Usually longer than three years, and most likely. The executive armed with new skills, experience and expertise plans to return to Australia with a new employer and that process starts well in advance of a return (potentially 12 months in advance).

 

  1. The long-term assignment where the probability of a return to Australia becomes less likely after five years or more.  The executive’s thinking starts to divert to alternate employers in the country of choice or indeed other countries. Financial and family issues take on a whole new degree of planning and execution in order to fully capture the opportunity.

In conclusion, plan with the end outcome in mind and update on a regular basis and don’t be the unknown executive in the room.

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