Learn When To Lean In And Lean Out

By Dani Matthews -

Published Date: 2019/11



When on a Board 'learn when to lean in and lean out '– the best Board members are great listeners and ask the right questions. Derwent held its Pathway to the Boardroom Forum in Sydney this week.  Two seasoned Non-Executive Directors Cliff Rosenberg and Fiona Robertson with experienced backgrounds in technology, mining, energy, and finance shared their respective journeys from Executive to Non-Executive Director life, to a room of over 90 Executives from a wide range of industry sectors.

Derwent’s Board Practice lead Michelle Gardiner facilitated the conversation with topics including the importance of establishing a value-add proposition, exploring different board opportunities, cultural imperatives and what it really means to be Board ready.

To describe her journey to a Non-Executive career, Fiona recollected how she had always enjoyed getting involved in activities being in leadership roles at her swimming club, university and children’s school, which helped her prepare for a career on Boards. Cliff’s journey began when approached by a recruiter to join a Board whilst the Managing Director of LinkedIn for South East Asia and ANZ.

Some key takeaways from our two speakers:

  • Once you’re on one ASX Board it’s easier to get onto another. Three tips to help you get onto a Board:
    1. Join the advisory Board of a public company or a sub committee in an area of your expertise
    2. Invest in the company early on and look for an opportunity to join the Board
    3. Choose a micro-cap and get some experience there before trying to get on an ASX 100 Board
  • Focus on your network and be known out there for what you’re great at, reflect on your value add proposition.
  • When on a Board, learn when to lean in and lean out – the best Board members are great listeners and ask the right questions.
  • Don’t leave your executive career too soon, especially for females, it’s important to understand the whole Board conversation although you won’t be an expert in every area. Taking a C-Suite role in a smaller organisation can be a great stepping stone to joining a Board.
  • Over four-five NED roles on public companies can become too many, you need to keep some time available for if things go wrong. The surprises are usually 'people surprises'.
  • Do your due diligence before joining a Board, lots of information is available for public companies including annual reports. Also, reflect on can you trust and respect the other Board members?
  • Your most important role as a Board is to appoint the right CEO and leadership team, as they set the tone for the culture. The relationship between the CEO and Chair is critical.
  • Learn from sites like Glassdoor and understand what people are really saying about the culture of the organisation and be prepared to question it. Request unfiltered employee engagement survey results with comments to really get a grip on the culture.
  • A good Board induction process can include individual meetings with the other Board Members and the Management Team, meetings with the company’s auditors and lawyers, site visits to get out into the field and regular check-ins with the Chair.