Board Diversity – Implications and Discussion

A number of studies have demonstrated that greater diversity in the boardroom and organisations will improve business outcomes. However, despite efforts, progress in increasing board diversity has been slow. 

By Karen Loon IDP-C and IDN Board Member

With the growing focus by stakeholders on more board and organisational diversity, is it time for us to #ChooseToChallenge and do things differently?  What is holding progress back, what is the role of boards in moving the dial, and what can we do differently?

IDN members participated in a webinar in March 2021 where they shared their perspectives on board diversity.  Liselotte Engstam IDP-C and IDN Board Member, facilitated the session.

Setting the Scene

Karen Loon IDP-C and IDN Board Member, gave an overview and shared her perspectives on increasing board diversity, highlighting that it is a wicked problem that is not easily resolved.

Although discussion on increasing the diversity of boards started with a focus on gender, it has now broadened beyond demographics to diversity of thought and experience, and its impact on innovation.  Further, stakeholders’ expectations, particularly investors, due to the increased focus on sustainability.

As a result, various governments, regulators and advocacy groups have released regulations and guidelines to support increasing the pipeline of available diverse candidates for boards. These include implementing quotas or targets and encouraging boards to have more targeted and independent board renewal processes.

Whilst the number of women on boards globally has increased to 16.9% in 2018, up 1.9% from 2016, there is still some way to go, and progress has been slow and inconsistent.

Understanding the different viewpoints on why having board diversity is important requires one to understand various organisational and personal motivators.  Some focus on the business case for diversity, whereas others concentrate on the social case (the “right thing to do”).

Much of the academic and business research to date has centred on the business case for greater board diversity. In particular, it has sought to demonstrate a correlation between board diversity (principally gender) and greater financial performance. This includes a broad range of areas, including financial position/performance, public disclosure, socially responsible behaviours, firm decisions, philanthropy, reputation, and innovation.[1].   In 2020, a study in Australia by Curtin University took this a step further and found a causal link between greater numbers of women on boards and in leadership and better financial performance.

Other recent research has explored areas including:

One question Karen raised is if the business case for greater board diversity is clear:  Why don’t we see boards increase their diversity more quickly?  Could there be other “elephants in the room” at play holding change back?  And could it be time to look at things differently, recognising that board work is both logical/technical and illogical/emotional?

On board dynamics, she noted that a board is a team, but it is only as good as the collective of the board and what they bring to it, both conscious and unconscious.  Further, board work is emotional, as discussed in IDN’s webinar, Fit for Generations: How to Create & Lead a Family Business Board.

Another angle is: Should we view increasing board diversity as part of a broader organisation or cultural change initiative, as Professor Michael Jarrett suggested in his March 2021 INSEAD Knowledge article?

And if this is the case: Should boards themselves be more reflective to understand why there may be ambivalence for change and assess what needs to be done.  Is there a greater opportunity to share views on boardroom dynamics and the unsaid in a safe space?

Member perspectives

IDN members had the opportunity to share their views on what board members can do to increase board diversity.  Key highlights included:

  • Importance of the role of the chair – The role of the chair in the boardroom at the start to ensure all voices are heard is paramount as he/she sets the tone for acceptance of the importance of board diversity and the boardroom culture. Having a culture of being open to listening to different perspectives and having processes that draw these out includes inviting everyone’s opinion, respecting different viewpoints, ensuring no one dominates the discussion, and being very open-minded and respectful.
  • Role of the nominating committee – The role of the nominating committee to support board renewal is essential. Nominating committees have a responsibility to ensure that the list of candidates they start with is representative.
  • Valuing diversity of perspectives, thought and contributions – Diversity should not be viewed as a box ticking exercise. True diversity is diversity of perspectives, thought and contributions in the boardroom, in addition to demographic diversity.  Having more international board directors can support this.  It is equally important for boards to ensure that there is diversity in their organisations, not just the boardroom and to ensure that it is pushed down.
  • How can we move the dial? – Some participants were supportive of quotas and having the “power of three” as they felt it improved the quality of boardroom discussions. Whilst there has been a lot of awareness-building on the importance of board diversity, more can be done.

 

To find out more, read our IDN member views:

 

[1] For example, refer to the overviews of recent research by Kagzi and Guha (2018) at https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JSMA-01-2017-0002/full/html, and Salma and Qian (2021) at https://www.journalofbusiness.us/index.php/site/article/view/182.

 

INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) – An INSEAD Global Club of International Board Directors

Our Mission is to foster excellent Corporate Governance through networking, communication and self-improvement. IDN has 1,500 members from 80 countries, all Alumni from different INSEAD graduations as MBA, EMBA, GEMBA, and IDP-C. We meet in live IDN webinars and meet-ups arranged by our IDN Ambassadors based in 25 countries. Our IDN website holds valuable corporate governance knowledge in our IDN blog, and we share insights also to our LinkedIn and Twitter  followers. We highlight our member through quarterly sharing of their new board appointments, and once a year we give out IDN Awards to prominent board accomplishments. We provide a peer-to-peer mentoring and board vacancy service and we come together two times per year at the INSEAD Directors Forum arranged by ICGC. We also engage with ICGC on joint research.

 

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (“ICGC”)

Established in 2010, the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (ICGC) has been actively engaged in making a distinctive contribution to the knowledge and practice of corporate governance. The ICGC harnesses faculty expertise across multiple disciplines to teach and research on the challenges of boards of directors in an international context and to foster a global dialogue on governance issues with the ultimate goal to develop boards for high-performance governance. Visit ICGC website: https://www.insead.edu/centres/corporate-governance

71 board appointments for INSEAD Directors Network members

7 April 2021

Members Board & Corporate Governance Positions Announcement Q1 2021

INSEAD’s International Directors Network, IDN is proudly sharing the recent appointments up to end of February 2021 of board and corporate governance positions of our members, truly recognising our members and the strength of our IDN network.

IDN members have been appointed to 71 new board positions in 20 countries, summing up to 397 position announcements since 2017.

As a member of IDN, the network of INSEAD International Board Directors, (full membership is open to all INSEAD Alumni with appropriate directorship experience and is automatic for Certified Directors (IDP-C) from INSEAD’s International Directors Program (IDP)), you can be truly proud of your network!

You will find the IDN members with new board positions below.  Why don’t you help share our network’s achievement via Linkedin, as well as also position yourself and your membership of a vibrant network via this Linkedin post.

And take the time to connect with your fellow IDN members at LinkedIn and expand your board contacts by clicking their names below and connecting with them!

To date, IDP has been completed by 1,378 IDP and IDPB participants, with 1062 certified IDP-C/ IDBP-C directors, and our International Board Network IDN of INSEAD Alumni of 1,503 members.

IDN works closely with INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre, which undertakes cutting-edge research and teaching tailored to the needs of boards and international directors.  The Centre fosters a global dialogue on the challenges of corporate governance and leadership in an international context.

INSEAD Directors’ Network – Members New Board & Corporate Governance Positions

IDN members – Certified IDP-C Board Directors

Xavier Bedoret – November & December 2020 – Chairman of the Board of International Trade S.A. – International trade financing (Private, HQ Brussels) & Chairman of the Board of Cenergy Holdings S.A., Steel (Listed, HQ Brussels)
Sanjeesh Bera – December 2020 – Member of the Board of Directors at Teevra Edutech Pvt Ltd (Private, HQ India)
Carin Beumer – October 2020 – Board member at Mercy Corps (NGO, HQ The Netherlands)
Robert Bolier – January 2021- CEO and Board member at Sustainable Forestry Investments (SFI) BV (Private, HQ The Netherlands)
Bas Boots – December 2020 – Member of the Supervisory Board at Limgroup BV (Private, HQ The Netherlands)
Roberta Casali – May 2020 – Chairperson of Tages Capital Sgr (Private, HQ Italy)
Farid Chedid – February 2021 – Chairman and CEO at Ascoma AC (Private, HQ Monaco)
Smit Crouse – November 2020 – Non Executive Board Director at Motus Holdings Limited (Listed, HQ South Africa)
Pierre Dejoux – March 2020 – Non Executive Board Director at Energiency (Private, HQ France)
Lale Develioğlu – December 2020 – Independent Board Director at Anadolu Efes (Listed, HQ Turkey)
Magali Depras – October 2020 – Non-Executive Board Director at Chemical Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) (Not-for-profit, Ottawa, Canada)
Judith Eden – October 2020, Committee Chair at Pension Insurance Corporation (Private, HQ United Kingdom)
Fabio Mondini de Focatiis – September 2020, Board member at Barberinos (Private, HQ Italy)
Dominic Gaillard – January 2021 – Chairman (6 years) at Vontobel Asset Management AG – Group company -(Private, HQ Switzerland), Chairman (10 years) Vontobel Asset Management SA – Group company – (Private, HQ Luxembourg), Board Member at Vontobel Asset Management Pte Ltd – Group company (Private, HQ Singapore), Chairman (4 years) at Vontobel Fonds Services AG – Group Company (Private, HQ Switzerland)
Helen Gillies – January 2021 – Non Executive Director at Aurelia Metals Limited (Listed, HQ Australia)
Peter Hinder – February 2021- Chairman & CEO at Abifor AG (Private, HQ Switzerland)
Saskia Kunst – February 2021 – Chairman Supervisory Board at Energy Transition Fund Rotterdam BV (Public fund, HQ The Netherlands)
Virginie Lagrange – October 2020 –  Non Executive Director Board Member, Chairwoman of the Audit Committee, member of the Risk Committee, member of the Nomination and Remuneration Committee at Liberty Mutual Insurance Europe SE (Private, HQ Luxembourg)
Karen Loon – August 2020 & January 2021 – Chair, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, Singapore Overseas Regional Council (Professional Organisation, Singapore) & Director at INSEAD Directors Club Ltd (Private Ltd, HQ Singapore)
Dr. Lucy Surhyel Newman – July 2020 & February 2021-  Non-Executive Member of the Governing Board at Renaissance Development Forum (RDF) (NGO, HQ Nigeria) & Non Executive Member of the Governing Council at West African Thoelogical Seminary (WATS), (Private, HQ Nigeria)
Dominic Nixon – August 2020 – Director at INSEAD Directors Club Ltd (Private Ltd, HQ Singapore)
Marina Niforos – January 2021 -NED, Chair Nomination Committee, member Investment and Risk Committees, mandate renewal until 2025 at Hellenic Corporation of Assets and Participations (Private, HQ Greece)  & Advisory Board member at Sovereign Investment Fund & Urban Impact Ventures, (Private, HQ Netherlands)
Gbenga Oyebode – December 2020 – Chairman and Non-Executive Director of the Board at PZ Cussons Nigeria Plc (Public, HQ Nigeria)
Astrid Pieron – January 2021- Non-Executive Board Director at Herstal Group (Private, HQ Belgium)
Helen Pitcher OBE – February 2021 – Chairman at INSEAD Directors Club Ltd (Private Ltd, HQ Singapore)
Mary Sue Rogers – October 2020 – Non-Executive Director at Inclusiv Education Pty Ltd (HQ Australia)
Annemieke Roobeek – October 2020 – Non-Executive Board Director at ENECO (Private, HQ The Netherlands)
Raymond Schadeck – September 2020 – Chairman of the Board of Regents of Sacred Heart University (Private, HQ Luxembourg) & Chairman of Université dans la Nature – Montréal (Quebec) (Private, HQ Canada)
Christiane Schloderer – December 2020 – Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees at German International School (Non-profit, HQ Abu Dhabi, UAE)
Jeff Scott – February 2021 – Director at INSEAD Directors Club Ltd (Private Ltd, HQ Singapore)
Sophie Servaty – October 2020 – Non- Executive Board Director at Les Cliniques Universitaires de Saint Luc (Private, HQ Belgium) & Chairman of the Audit Committee at Les Cliniques Universitaires de Saint-Luc (Private, HQ Belgium)
James Singh – January 2021 – Non-executive Director at 1020 Capital; 1020 Multistrategy Fund (Private, HQ Hongkong)
Charles Spaan – September 2020 –  Member of the Advisory Board at Lender & Spender (Private, HQ Netherlands)
Nicoline Spruijt – January 2020 – Non Executive Director at Palais Coudenberg, Belgium (Not-for-Profit, HQ Belgium)
Marcia de Wachter – September 2020 – Chair of the Board of Directors of MeDirectBank  (Private, HQ Malta)
Anna Zanardi – Beaconforce Srl, Italy, Innovation Start Up (Private, HQ Italy)

IDN Members – Board Directors

Emmanuele Attout – January 2021 – Non-Executive Director at AG Insurance (Private, HQ Belgium)
Cedric Brusselmans – February 2021 – Chairman at Chapter Zero Brussels (NGO, HQ Belgium)
Thomas Burkhalter – October 2020 & January 2021- Chairman at momentumDB.pro (Private, HQ, Switzerland) & Chairman at education4future GmbH (Private, HQ, Switzerland)
David Buser – October 2020 – Board Director at Canveo Limited (Private, HQ United Kingdom)
Dr Antonio Dottore – February 2021 – Non-executive Director at CRC Longevity (CRC = Co-Operative Research Centre), (NGO, HQ Australia)
Wu Gang – October 2020 – Non-executive Director at IG Group Holdings plc (Listed, HQ United Kingdom)
Ludovic Gaude – November 2020 – Chairman at Robart (Private, HQ Austria)
Rob Goudswaard – November 2020 & January 2021 – Non Executive Director at Lawson Grains Macquarie Bank Agriculture Fund (Private, HQ Sydney Australia) & Non-executive Director at Cashrewards Ltd (Listed, Australia)
Joop Heijenrath – February 2021 – Chairman at Yource (Private, HQ Netherlands)
Grant Latimer – November 2020 – Director, Board Member at Proton Products International (Private, HQ United Kingdom)
Marco Montefiori – October 2020- Trustee Member of HR Committee, BFNY (Non for Profit, HQ United States) & Trustee Member of Finance Committee, BFNY (Non for Profit, HQ United States)
Oyekunle Osilaja – January 2020 – Non-Executive Board Director at UPDC Plc (Listed, HQ Nigeria) & January 2019 Non-Executive Director, Landmark Africa Ltd (Private, Nigeria)
Michel Rzonzef – (September 2019) – Non-executive Director at SGI (Engineering and Consulting), (Private, HQ Luxembourg)
Joshua C.K. Siow – February 2021- Independent Board Director at AEI Corporation Limited (Listed, HQ Singapore)
Jim Strang – January 2021 –  Independent Non-Executive Director at Business Growth Fund plc, Private, London, UK
Jan-Paul van Term – November 2020 – Supervisory Board Member at TAUW Group, (Private, HQ The Netherlands)
Johan Vermeiren – October 2020 – Non Executive Director at Syntegro (Private, HQ Belgium)
Frank Vogt – January 2021 – Supervisory Board Member at Dock Foundation, member Audit Committee (Public, Netherlands) & Non-Executive Board Member at Die Keure Publishing & Printing, Digital Focus (Private, Belgium)
Carole Wintersdorff – November 2020 – Non Executive Independent Director at AMR Action Fund GP Sarl (Unlisted, HQ Luxembourg)

Previous announcements and more information

Previous board position announcements by shared by IDN;
December 2020 September 2020 March 2020 October 2019 July 2019  February 2019  November 2018 July 2018 April 2018  January 2018   October 2017

For organisations interested in partnering with IDN, please contact IDN President, Helen Pitcher OBE, at [email protected]

On Behalf of the INSEAD International Directors’ Network Board,

 

 

 

 

Helen Wiseman, 
IDP-C, IDN & NAA Australia Board Member,
NED at multiple companies
www.linkedin.com/in/helenwiseman
[email protected]

For more information about :

How to become a partner of IDN, contact our President, Helen Pitcher here
INSEAD Directors’ Network, click here.
INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre here.

Follow INSEAD IDN on social media;
INSEAD IDN on LinkedIn
INSEAD IDN on Twitter

Get to know Christiane Schloderer, IDN UAE Ambassador

Christiane Schloderer is our newly appointed IDN Ambassador in the United Arab Emirates.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Christiane Schloderer. I am IDP-C 16 and very happy and honoured to join the IDN Ambassador group.

Originally from Germany, I have been based in the Middle East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh) since 2008. I am a non-executive director to Rolaco Group in Saudi Arabia, a mid-cap family business. In December 2020, I was “promoted” to being the chairwomen of GISAD, the German International School Abu Dhabi. The transition from board member to chair is challenging but comes with great learning opportunities.

Since 2016 I run Growth Partners, consulting mid-sized & family businesses and larger startups in building scalable businesses, particularly financially – often in interim CFO roles. Governance is a large topic for most of them. Prior to that, I was CFO for Nokia’s Joint Venture in Saudi Arabia and have worked in various corporate finance roles in Nokia Networks. I hold a doctoral degree from the German Armed Forces University in innovation and change management.

Pre-kids, I enjoyed hiking, horse riding, scuba diving and travelling. These days, I spend my leisure time with my two daughters (3 and 5) on playgrounds, the pool and the beach, enjoying the wonderful winter climate in Abu Dhabi.

What are you planning to do to engage with members in your location?

I had the pleasure to connect already with a few UAE IDN members and look forward to (re-) connecting the IDN members with each other and identifying subjects of interest. I hope we can build a small group of active members to jointly organize activities.

Leveraging on the INSEAD Abu Dhabi campus would be a great opportunity to organize faculty engagements and get-togethers (Covid permitting, of course).

Family governance, startup-governance and financial service governance are certainly high up on the list of topics.

Where will you fly to when you get on a plane next (and why)?

With currently 10 days quarantine requirements when re-entering Abu Dhabi, spontaneous trips have not been possible for the last year. All business trips have been replaced largely by online meetings. So, the first trip will be to see my parents in Germany and next, a proper vacation to a sunny island with my husband and our daughters.

 

If you are an IDN member in the UAE, please do reach out to Christiane.

Get to know Domingo Armengol, IDN Spain Ambassador

Domingo Armengol is our newly appointed IDN Ambassador in Spain.

Tell us about yourself.

I am 55 years old, married, have two children aged 22 and 19, and am working and living in Madrid, Spain.

As a corporate lawyer, I’ve developed the last 20 years of my professional career as secretary of the board and corporate secretary of different companies, always trying to create and promote good corporate governance of the companies and the market.

In my professional career and personal life, I’ve always wanted to be linked to the international environment, which has allowed me to meet new people and cultures and expand my experiences and skills (IDP was a great example).

I’m passionate about mountain sports, travelling and culture.

What are you planning to do to engage with members in your location?

First of all, I plan to get to know them and try to get to know each other, find out what their main interest and goals are, and try to form a community of IDPs.

For that purpose, and considering our current situation, I think we should set a virtual meeting to give the chance to talk and set our common goals and subsequent actions.

As a next step think it will be very positive to bring together the members with people of interest to open the possibility to share and learn about matters of interest for directors or new tendencies in governance (academics, directors, headhunters, etc.).

This interaction could also help that the IDP-C will be known in the market, put it in value in Spain, and open opportunities to the members for future positions in boards.

Where will you fly to when you get on a plane next (and why)?

I hope I’ll be able to fly to Glasgow, Scotland, where my daughter is studying for her university degree, to visit her and to travel together around Scotland (a plan that has I’ve delayed from early 2020).

 

If you are an IDN member in Spain, please do reach out to Domingo.

 

As told to Karen Loon IDP-C, IDN Board Member

Fit for Generations: How to Create & Lead a Family Business Board

Serving on a family business board is a curated balance between the past, present, and future.  It involves dedicated involvement from the board, the family and multiple stakeholders. 

By Karen Loon, IDP-C and IDN Board Member

Family firms, which are the majority of global companies and account for 70% of the global GDP and 60% of global employment, are a crucial driver of international business and growth.  Their sustained long-term value creation is essential for the global economy as a whole.

However, family firms’ long-term success is not given, and it is not an easy task to succeed across multiple generations. There are many complexities involved when ownership, management, and family roles overlap with less clear distinctions between them and multiple, conflicting agendas.

Family business boards can play an instrumental role in aligning family businesses successfully for the future.  However, it can be a balancing act for non-family board members/ chairs, particularly navigating the complex landscape of legacy, interests, power, and the constant need for change and renewal.

INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) members recently had the opportunity to learn how to successfully develop and manage family business boards as vehicles for successful governance and leadership with impact across generations in a webinar held on 8 March 2021.  The speakers included:

  • Martin Roll – Distinguished Fellow (family business) and Entrepreneur in Residence, INSEAD
  • Christian Sievert, Non-Executive Director (“NED”) and Advisor
  • Marina Niforos IDP-C, IDN France Ambassador, NED and Advisor

The webinar was facilitated by Liselotte Engstam IDP-C, with support from Hagen Schweinitz IDP-C, both IDN board members.

How to create and lead a family business board

Download Martin Roll’s presentation (PDF)

Martin Roll shared his perspectives on how to create and lead a family business board.  He highlighted that the overlap between family, ownership, and business interests increases the complexity and emotions between different parties.

“As a board member of the family firm, you will find yourself navigating between family issues, owner issues and business issues, where maybe in non-family firms, it’s a little clearer” said Martin who highlighted that this complexity increases emotions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Martin Roll

Having a successful family business strategy is dependent on clear roles, responsibilities and “guardrails” between family, ownership, and business to drive sustained success.  Key challenges which the strategy needs to address to align family businesses and inter-generational interests include family, ownership, business portfolio, family office, and impact.

Martin shared that the dilemmas in balancing business and family are paradoxical.

“What are family firms generally are interested in, first of all, they want to grow in the long-term perspective, but at the same time you also want that kind of family harmony and welfare” – Martin Roll.

Having an appropriate family business governance structure is essential.  Traits of effective family business board members include:

  • Balance past, present and future – understanding the legacy of the family.
  • Proximity to family owners but keep integrity.
  • Succession and ownership are constant concerns.
  • Beware of cultural differences.

Experiences and perspectives on family business boards

Christian Sievert and Marina Niforos shared their personal experiences and perspectives on family business boards from an ownership, advisor, and NED perspective.

They noted that the benefits of family businesses include having long term perspectives and commitment; having strong family/company values as a core asset; and strong financial performance.

“Most families have some core values that you know have been the foundation for starting the company, and that are really a strength that can be used when recruiting, retaining and developing, especially good employees” said Christian.

Challenges for independent directors are:

  • Managing complexity – Navigating higher levels of complexity, emotions, and boundaries, especially if there are contentious areas and different loyalties. Also, maintaining independence can be difficult for independent directors.

“It’s also difficult to manage your own emotional charge, because in the beginning when you come in as an outsider, you have a lot of interest to develop relationships so that you can actually have this sort of capital of trust with the family.  But the closer you get, the more difficult it is to exercise your fundamental role on the board, which is a challenge as an independent. So, in a sense, yes, that is a paradox, and you have to manage that – it’s not an easy job” – Marina Niforos.

  • The informality of family businesses – Having clarity of the board’s decision-making processes and independence. Examples of areas where family businesses can be better are having a clear business plan.
  • Difficulties of dealing with “elephants in the room” where issues cross the boundaries between family, business, and ownership.  More sensitive matters include succession, remuneration, legacy business models/having a sense of urgency, and innovation and renewal.

Conclusion

Serving on a family business board is a curated balance between the past, present, and future.  It involves dedicated involvement from the board, the family and multiple stakeholders.  Martin Roll concluded the webinar with the following observations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Family business NEDs can be critical for long-term success by balancing complex business, family and governance issues.
  2. Navigate carefully and with integrity between emotions, internal conflicts, power dynamics, inter-generational views, and cultural differences.
  3. Be a catalyst for change and bring outside inspiration from other ownership models (private equity, venture capital, institutional, foundation) and governance structures.

 

INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) – An INSEAD Global Club of International Board Directors

Our Mission is to foster excellent Corporate Governance through networking, communication and self-improvement. IDN has 1,500 members from 80 countries, all Alumni from different INSEAD graduations as MBA, EMBA, GEMBA, and IDP-C. We meet in live IDN webinars and meet-ups arranged by our IDN Ambassadors based in 25 countries. Our IDN website holds valuable corporate governance knowledge in our IDN blog, and we share insights also to our LinkedIn and Twitter  followers. We highlight our member through quarterly sharing of their new board appointments, and once a year we give out IDN Awards to prominent board accomplishments. We provide a peer-to-peer mentoring and board vacancy service and we come together two times per year at the INSEAD Directors Forum arranged by ICGC. We also engage with ICGC on joint research.

 

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (“ICGC”)

Established in 2010, the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (ICGC) has been actively engaged in making a distinctive contribution to the knowledge and practice of corporate governance. The ICGC harnesses faculty expertise across multiple disciplines to teach and research on the challenges of boards of directors in an international context and to foster a global dialogue on governance issues with the ultimate goal to develop boards for high-performance governance. Visit ICGC website: https://www.insead.edu/centres/corporate-governance

Get to know Johan de Wit, IDN China Ambassador

Johan de Wit is our newly appointed IDN Ambassador in China.  

Tell us about yourself?

In 1986, I started my career at Buck Consultants International, and from 1987-1989, I served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Dutch Navy. In 1989, I joined Nationale-Nederlanden, which became part of ING Group in 1991, where I started my career in life insurance and asset management (corporate & retail). In 2007, I moved to the banking side of ING Group.

In the Netherlands, I held various commercial and management roles in Corporate Pensions at Nationale-Nederlanden. In 1997, I left the Netherlands and worked in Mexico (CFO AFORE Bital at Banco Bital), Chile (Commercial Director ING Life), back to the Netherlands (Project Manager restructuring Head Office), Japan (President/CEO ING Life, Chairman ING Mutual Funds), UK (CEO ING Direct UK), and Turkey (Head of Retail ING Bank Turkey). Since 2013, I have been based in China, where I am seconded by ING Group to Bank of Beijing as Executive Director & Vice President.

I have a Doctoral Degree in Geography from the University of Utrecht and two Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degrees (Erasmus University, Rotterdam and Rochester University/ Simon Graduate School, USA). I also completed the Harvard Business School General Manager Program and the INSEAD International Director Programme (“IDP”). I am a Member of The Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland.

My wife and my three teenage daughters live with me in Beijing.

What are you planning to do to engage with members in your location?

Regarding my new role as IDP Ambassador for China, the IDP network in China is very small. I hope to be able to establish cooperation with the INSEAD China National Alumni Association and explore how we can promote the IDP programme in the large market.

Where will you fly to when you get on a plane next (and why)?

Regarding my next travel, as COVID has been well under control in China for almost one year, travelling within China is easy and common but going abroad is still (practically) not possible.

On my next trip abroad, I will certainly first fly to California to see my family whom I have not seen for a long time!

 

If you are an IDN member in China, please do reach out to Johan.

 

 

How having a board mentor supports lifelong learning

As told to Karen Loon, IDP-C and IDN Board Member.

“Never hesitate to ask for guidance, empathy, advice and support” – Virginia Brumby Ferreira

Virginia Brumby Ferreira MBA’09J, a recent mentee in the 2020 INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) INsights Director Mentoring Programme is a typical INSEAD MBA.  After completing her MBA, she became an entrepreneur, leader, and board director.

“In true INSEAD spirit, I changed absolutely everything post-INSEAD: I moved to a new country, switched sector, and became an entrepreneur for the first time – in fact, the business I set up was my INSEAD MBA project!  A decade later, after the most challenging, fulfilling (and fun!) decade of my life, I am still running that same company. None of it would have been possible without my incredibly supportive INSEAD friends and network”.

As a result of her enthusiasm to give back, she has been an active member and has taken on board and leadership roles with the Singapore NAA, as well as the INSEAD Alumni Fund.

On how she developed her board portfolio, “’Pursue’ is not the right word; my board roles are more a consequence of my chronic inability to say no. Friends call me a ‘serial volunteer’ since I tend to constantly raise my hand and get involved in all kinds of projects, from fundraising to event organisation to helping out aspiring entrepreneurs and businesses with their strategy and communications. After years of involvement, there was a natural evolution into more board and leadership roles”, Virginia shared.

Lifelong learning from director mentors

In 2020, Virginia felt it was time to invest in her board career, and joined the INsights Director Mentor Programme.  She was matched with an experienced female board chair.

“Having been my own boss for many years, as well as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at INSEAD, I was thrilled at the prospect of getting advice and guidance, instead of giving it!”

Virginia met her mentor, who was based in a different country, monthly, via Zoom.  They adopted a relatively informal approach that fit their personalities and goals for the programme, but with action points to follow up on after each discussion.

The range of topics discussed was also broad.  “Some of the subjects I most enjoyed discussing were the most unexpected – such as appreciating the role of serendipity in our personal and professional lives, knowing when it’s time to close a door, and making the ‘highest and best use’ of our most precious resource – time!”

Virginia enjoyed sharing experiences with her mentor.

“Being able to share openly with both my mentor about our respective journeys — including the disastrous moments! — helped me put my own challenges in perspective and find a way forward” – Virginia Brumby Ferreira.

Learning from director peers

Another benefit was having an opportunity to learn from and be supported by other mentees through the monthly mentee sessions.

“I found the group discussions with my fellow mentees both practical and inspiring. They shared a wealth of experience, and the overall atmosphere in the group of acceptance, inclusivity and encouragement was especially important during this roller coaster year”, she remarked.

Leveraging the power of the INSEAD network

Virginia suggests that new directors should seek advice early in their careers.  “Even the leaders we most admire and idolise (the mentors in this programme are excellent examples) didn’t get there on their own. Never hesitate to ask for guidance, empathy, advice and support”.

She highly recommends that a good place to start is to leverage the INSEAD community and in particular, in relation to board experience, other IDN members.

 

To find out more about IDN’s INsights Director Mentoring Programme, visit here.

 

INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) – An INSEAD Global Club of International Board Directors

Our Mission is to foster excellent Corporate Governance through networking, communication and self-improvement. IDN has 1,500 members from 80 countries, all Alumni from different INSEAD graduations as MBA, EMBA, GEMBA, and IDP-C. We meet in live IDN webinars and meet-ups arranged by our IDN Ambassadors based in 25 countries. Our IDN website holds valuable corporate governance knowledge in our IDN blog, and we share insights also to our LinkedIn and Twitter  followers. We highlight our member through quarterly sharing of their new board appointments and once a year we give out IDN Awards to prominent board accomplishments. We provide a peer-to-per mentoring and board vacancy service and we come together two times per year at the INSEAD Directors Forum arranged by ICGC. We also engage with ICGC on joint research.

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (“ICGC”)

Established in 2010, the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (ICGC) has been actively engaged in making a distinctive contribution to the knowledge and practice of corporate governance. The ICGC harnesses faculty expertise across multiple disciplines to teach and research on the challenges of boards of directors in an international context and to foster a global dialogue on governance issues with the ultimate goal to develop boards for high-performance governance. Visit ICGC website: https://www.insead.edu/centres/corporate-governance

 

Interview with Gbenga Oyebode, IDP6 2014, Trustee Ford Foundation

To be effective, new directors will require deep curiosity and an aptitude for analyzing a variety of information” – Gbenga Oyebode

In October 2020, INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) announced the four winners of the Inaugural IDN Awards 2020 for prestigious board positions.

The winners, which were selected from the 230 mandates, shared via the quarterly IDN Board Position Announcements, were selected based on the size and importance of the organisations they represented, their global relationships and the position at the board, in combination with pursuit of INSEAD’s mission ‘Force for Good’.

Four winners were selected, all of whom have an outstanding track record and have demonstrated the highest levels of integrity.

Gbenga Oyebode was one of the winners of the not-for-profit category.  We recently had the opportunity to ask Gbenga about his illustrious board career and his advice for aspiring directors.

Could you share with us how you obtained your first board role?  How have you built your board portfolio, both in your home country and overseas?  How have you decided on the types of organisations, industries and geographies where you would like to take up board roles?

My first board role presented itself in course of my legal practice. I served as legal adviser to a company in ownership transition and was eventually invited to join the board of the newly privatised company. I have never set out to build a particular type of board portfolio; instead the boards I have been involved with reflect my career as a lawyer, proclivity for investing, and are usually relevant to my passions and the change which I wish to see in the world (e.g. social justice, art, music).

I want to believe that organisations that invite me to serve on their boards recognise that I bring not only leadership and sound business judgment after 40 years of building my legal practice, but also investment expertise, a unique perspective and a global view given the multidimensional nature of my interests and relationships. In determining whether to accept a board role I lookout for alignment with the values of the organisation in terms of ethics, corporate governance and social responsibility and also consider my capacity to make the required commitment.

I have been lucky to include in my board portfolio a variety of companies including Access Bank Plc (one of the largest banks in Sub Saharan Africa), MTN Nigeria (the largest telecoms company in Africa), Nestle Nigeria PLC and many other global organisations.

Your board portfolio includes a number of not-for-profit boards.  What have been some of the focus areas which your not-for-profit boards have been focusing on in the past year?

The not-for-profit boards where I serve reflect the causes I am passionate about, such as social justice, education, philanthropy, music and the arts. For example, Ford Foundation aims to reduce poverty and injustice, strengthen democratic values, promote international cooperation and advance human achievement.   Teach for Nigeria, (were as I serve as Chairman) in partnership with Teach for All, is dedicated to ending educational inequity in Nigeria by building a movement of outstanding teachers and young professionals who are committed to expanding educational opportunity for all children in Nigeria. African Philanthropy Forum creates a platform for emerging African philanthropists to channel giving to strategic causes in Africa. Carnegie Hall, Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Jazz at Lincoln Center reflect my passion for the arts and music.

In the last year, most not for profit boards, like other profit making organisations have been focused on navigating the impact of COVID 19 on their sustainability and ability to execute their objectives. The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the poor, vulnerable and marginalised has brought into sharper prominence the mission and objectives of many not for profit organisations, which seek to reduce poverty, provide equal opportunity and support vulnerable groups.

As a board chair, when selecting candidates for board positions, what are the skillsets and qualities of potential board members that you look out for?

As a board chair, when selecting candidates for board positions, I look out for the leadership experience, integrity, commitment, global view, business judgment, collegiality, and discretion. I believe that these are critical attributes required to succeed on any board.  In today’s world, gender and geographical diversity are also sine qua non for effective boards.

What is your advice to new directors on how they can best stay up to speed on governance and business trends?

The world is constantly changing and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will be with us for a long a time. To be effective, new directors should never stop learning, embrace change and leverage the power of technology. Staying up to speed with constantly evolving trends in this ‘new normal’ requires deep curiosity and an aptitude for analysing a variety of information. This new era of virtual meetings, work from home, greater work-life integration and efficiency are here to stay and will be reflected in our board practices as we adopt more environmental, sustainable and transparent governance models going forward.

 

By Karen Loon, IDN Board Member and Non-Executive Director.

 

INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) – An INSEAD Global Club of International Board Directors

Our Mission is to foster excellent Corporate Governance through networking, communication and self-improvement. IDN has 1,500 members from 80 countries, all Alumni from different INSEAD graduations as MBA, EMBA, GEMBA, and IDP-C. We meet in live IDN webinars and meet-ups arranged by our IDN Ambassadors based in 25 countries. Our IDN website holds valuable corporate governance knowledge in our IDN blog, and we share insights also to our LinkedIn and Twitter  followers. We highlight our member through quarterly sharing of their new board appointments and once a year we give out IDN Awards to prominent board accomplishments. We provide a peer-to-per mentoring and board vacancy service and we come together two times per year at the INSEAD Directors Forum arranged by ICGC. We also engage with ICGC on joint research.

 

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (“ICGC”)

Established in 2010, the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (ICGC) has been actively engaged in making a distinctive contribution to the knowledge and practice of corporate governance. The ICGC harnesses faculty expertise across multiple disciplines to teach and research on the challenges of boards of directors in an international context and to foster a global dialogue on governance issues with the ultimate goal to develop boards for high-performance governance. Visit ICGC website: https://www.insead.edu/centres/corporate-governance

Modern Chair Practices: What makes an effective board chair?

By Karen Loon, IDP-C and IDN Board Member

Board chairs will continue to play an important role in engaging, enabling, and encouraging their boards and companies.

Effective chairs play a critical role during times of change and uncertainty. 

Whilst the recent pandemic has impacted how boards operate, it has had a significant impact on the role of board chairs, how chairs work, and what makes them effective, according to Stanislav Shekshnia, Senior Affiliate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise at INSEAD and Director of Leading from the Chair Programme and Helen Pitcher OBE, INSEAD Directors Network (‘IDN”) President who recently shared their perspectives on emerging trends in board chairs’ practices in an exclusive webinar for IDN members.

Attendees had the opportunity to get a preview of the key findings from ongoing research on chairs’ practices in Europe across 15 countries, 200 chairs and 300 shareholders, directors and CEOs including during the pandemic.

The research, with some contributions from the IDN[i], will be released by Professor Shekshnia in the upcoming second edition of his book, Leading a Board: Chair Practices Across Europe.  The webinar was facilitated by Liselotte Engstam IDP-C, with support from Hagen Schweinitz IDP-C, both IDN board members.

Over the past few years, the environment in which boards operate in has changed and became more challenging.  Companies are now subject to more public scrutiny, need to be more transparent, accountable and do more reporting.  Boards have been busier than ever, particularly since the start of the pandemic.  

Effective chairs lead their boards through Engaging, Enabling and Encouraging

Professor Shekshnia’s research concluded that effective chairs have continued to lead their boards by providing the 3Es of chair leadership – Engaging, Enabling, and Encouraging their boards, consistent with his prior research.

The role of chairs however has changed during the pandemic.  “What we found (was) that during the pandemic, chairs became more emotionally involved with their boards, (and) they spent more time doing their jobs”, said Professor Shekshnia.

Additionally, leading chairs are innovative in the way they lead their boards.

Finally, board work has become more relevant during the crisis, with only 1.2% of survey participants saying their board is irrelevant.

Leading practices of chairs which have emerged in the past year include:

Engaging

  • Chairs have become more caring – spending more time with each director; having more frequent contact; paying attention to mental and physical health; and having more personalised engagement.
  • Boards are engaging more over long-distance using technology such as Zoom, phone calls, Group chats and polls. Most hope to use face-to-face interactions when possible.

Enabling

  • Changing agenda items – new agenda items include COVID-19; employee, customers’ and suppliers’ health and safety; CEO health and fitness; and boards’ and individual directors’ resilience. Boards are also paying more attention to sustainability, succession planning, employee well-being, and social corporate responsibility.
  • Agenda setting – Leading chairs involve their directors more in setting agendas, using technology to set them. They also adjust agendas more frequently during meetings.
  • New formatsBoards are inviting experts to meetings, creating advisory boards and mixed board-management groups, and bringing in non-voting members to assist boards where there are skill gaps.
  • Innovation in managing board discussions online – Boards are experimenting with different online formats such as “camera on, mike off” mode, groups in Zoom, polling directors during the meeting, undertaking express evaluations at the end of each board meeting, and even turning off directors’ mikes!

Encouraging

  • Greater care and empathy – Leading chairs are supporting their boards, management and organisations with greater care and empathy, with less feedback and more support. They champion board education by acting as a “Chief Learning Officer” with their boards, and immerse themselves into new subjects like COVID.  Popular ideas used in lieu of in-person events include tea parties and drinks before and after virtual board meetings.

Virtual meetings have become a proven instrument for most chairs in Europe and will continue to be used going forward.

In the future, boards are likely to use a mix of virtual and face to face meetings, with big debates such as strategy being saved for face-to-face sessions, more operational questions for virtual meetings, and other more routine information sharing undertaken outside of the board room.  Helen Pitcher further added that more virtual meetings have had a positive impact on the environment, because of reduced travel.

An evolving idea is the changing attitude towards risk management.  Boards now have greater recognition that they need to move from classifying risks to organisational adaptability and resilience.

“Most of the board’s looked at risk in a sort of set standard way.  We identified the most important risks. We tried to come up with (a) strategy to deal with every specific risk. And we monitored the risks ranking them in accordance with their probability … Now most of the boards have (an) understanding that in addition to this, we also need to see how resilient our organisation is; how flexible we are.” – Professor Stanislav Shekshnia.

Boards are likely to focus more on the health and safety of employees, customers, suppliers, board members and the CEO in the future.  Empathy and mentoring are expected to be used more as performance measurement tools, as metrics have become less relevant.

What makes an effective chair?

Being a chair requires the chair to “balance” different attributes.  It is not about having one attribute or another, but about being ambivalent (or plus and minus) at the same time.  The opposite pairs are:

  • Authority and humility
  • Commitment and detachment
  • Incisiveness and patience
  • Helicopter view and company knowledge
  • Hard and soft skills

Professor Shekshnia concluded that the impact of the board chair on board effectiveness has always been significant, however in 2020 became critical because of the high change and uncertainty that we lived through last year.  The board chair’s role and impact will continue to be critical in 2021.

The changing role of the chair – Experiences of chairing boards during the pandemic

Helen Pitcher OBE shared her personal experiences from chairing boards across a range of organisations during the pandemic, noting that the pandemic has had a significant impact on how boards work.

“This is a once in a generational opportunity to change ways of working.  We’ll never again be able to say the way we used to do it, or we tried that, and it didn’t work because we are having to rethink everything that we do, and how we do it”, said Helen.

“Good chairs were already doing a lot of the things that needed to happen and were able to gear up quickly to support their boards and their organisations through the crisis.” – Helen Pitcher OBE. 

Some of the areas that chairs have been focusing on are:

Impacts on the transformational agenda during the pandemic

Shifting goals and outcomes

Health and safety, mental health and well-being, and what our goals and outcomes should be have become more important for boards and their chairs.

For some boards, the pandemic has been an opportunity for them to look at how to build their businesses and move them forward.  However, other organisations have been in crisis; their boards are meeting far more frequently, which demands a lot of the chair’s time.

“All chairs are having to work far, far more in their boards and on their boards, and to keep the communication flow going”, Helen remarked.

On developing relationships, “it’s become even more important for chairs to hold pre-board sessions, post-board sessions with all the board, and indeed with other key stakeholders to see how things are going”.

Finding opportunities for informal interactions, such as “board gin and tonic” events with no business agenda to find out how people are have been helpful.

Communication and messaging

“Being able to continue to communicate, particularly at a time of pandemic and fatigue is really, really important” – Helen Pitcher OBE. 

Chairs and board members should be prepared to have sessions with people across their organisations.  “You can never overcommunicate… having clarity of message and making sure we’re keeping people up to date is absolutely, absolutely crucial” Helen stressed, adding that chairs and board members need to listen even harder in these times.

Transformational change with assurance

Many employees are anxious about the future, for example the impact that new technology will have on them, or about moving offices and what the impact would look like.

“It’s even more critical that the board is supporting the executives to have the right conversations within their organisations, and to have deep conversations, both formal and informal.” – Helen Pitcher OBE.

She recommended that chairs and board members take “time to listen to people to talk about their concerns…. so that as much of the uncertainty as you could possibly take away is taken away”.

The immediate role of the chair in the crisis

  • Supporting executives – Board chairs have a key role to encourage their organisations, acting as a sounding board for executives, and to mentor and coach them, bringing their previous experience to bear.
  • Strategic horizon – Leading boards are also spending a lot of time looking at the future of their organisations, giving their people hope that there is a brighter future for them. “We need to constantly be scanning the horizon to see what we can learn from others.  The board’s learning individually and collectively is very important, because that keeps them fit for purpose for moving forward”.

The strategic role of the chair in the crisis

Boards have a responsibility to ensure that decisions made are sensible for the emergent reputation of their businesses.  How boards and chairs respond during the crisis will be remembered internally and externally going forward.  “Managing that reputation is hugely important, not only because it is morally the right thing to do, but because it’s sound business sense”.

Other strategic areas where chairs play a key role include inclusion and diversity, supporting exhausted executives, and managing executive remuneration.

In concluding, Helen highlighted the important role of chairs to maintain the transformation narrative in the crisis:

“Things are changing, but we will not go back to the old way of being. We will always now focus, even more strongly on to things like risk management, health and safety, how we reward our people – we absolutely owe it to our organisations as boards to do all of that.

We really also need to make sure we are being reflective about what have we learned from this crisis that we can really take forward. 

How can we be more flexible and more agile as a business in order to ensure that all our stakeholders benefit from this, and have the time to think, what is good … and what needs to change.” – Helen Pitcher OBE.

 

IDN’s next webinar on Governance at Family Boards will be held on 8 March 2021.

 

INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) – An INSEAD Global Club of International Board Directors

Our Mission is to foster excellent Corporate Governance through networking, communication and self-improvement. IDN has 1,500 members from 80 countries, all Alumni from different INSEAD graduations as MBA, EMBA, GEMBA, and IDP-C. We meet in live IDN webinars and meet-ups arranged by our IDN Ambassadors based in 25 countries. Our IDN website holds valuable corporate governance knowledge in our IDN blog, and we share insights also to our LinkedIn and Twitter  followers. We highlight our member through quarterly sharing of their new board appointments and once a year we give out IDN Awards to prominent board accomplishments. We provide a peer-to-per mentoring and board vacancy service and we come together two times per year at the INSEAD Directors Forum arranged by ICGC. We also engage with ICGC on joint research.

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (“ICGC”)

Established in 2010, the INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (ICGC) has been actively engaged in making a distinctive contribution to the knowledge and practice of corporate governance. The ICGC harnesses faculty expertise across multiple disciplines to teach and research on the challenges of boards of directors in an international context and to foster a global dialogue on governance issues with the ultimate goal to develop boards for high-performance governance. Visit ICGC website: https://www.insead.edu/centres/corporate-governance

 

[i] IDN collaborates in many ways with ICGC. ICGC shares academic insights with the network, and provides opportunities for joint research. IDN shares experiences at several of ICGCs programs and events, and shares INSEAD insights with their boards and at many events. For the referenced chair practices research, led by Professor Stanislav Shekshnia, IDN President Helen Pitcher OBE has contributed with significant insights to both the topic and network, and IDN Board Member Liselotte Engstam has engaged for two years in the research performing the research on Swedish chair’s and board work, as well as contributed to the Nordic insights and co-authored the forthcoming book by writing one of the chapters.

 

Why every aspiring director should consider a mentor

IDN’s INsights Director Mentoring Programme pairs aspiring INSEAD alumni directors who are early in their board careers with some of INSEAD’s most senior alumni and influential business leaders.  Here they share the lessons that go both ways.

By Karen Loon IDP-C, IDN Board Member

The IDN INsights Director Mentoring Programme (the “Programme”) is a structured six-month programme offered by the INSEAD Director Network (“IDN”) that is aimed at IDN members who are early in their board careers and are seeking support from a highly experienced mentor based on a specific set of goals.  These goals will be related to their current board roles and/or may be designed to further develop their board career.  The Programme, facilitated by a professional mentor and an experienced board director encompasses one-on-one mentoring by an experienced mentor, peer learning with fellow mentees, as well as optional single mentoring sessions on a specific topic.

Mentor and mentee

Naji Majdalani considers himself extremely fortunate to have been mentored by Sreekumar Puthen Thermedam.

Sreekumar Puthen Thermedam

Non-Executive Director, Mentor, Advisor, IDP-C based in Singapore

 

 

 

 

I decided to become a mentor as I have been fortunate to gain good experience with well-respected organisations and also with some very credible professionals who are industry leaders in their own rights.

One of my ambitions in life always has been to contribute back to society.  I have found that mentoring is a wonderful way to share my knowledge, learning, experience, commitment, drive with professionals and to support in their development. INSEAD is a respectful organisation where both mentors and mentees share their knowledge – in fact, the mentor equally learns and develops his skills also.  Mentoring also forced me to update myself on many aspects of business requirements as a result of the ever-changing dynamics.

When we started our mentoring relationship, Naji sent me his CV and clearly stated his goals. We then had a face-to-face introductory session. I found Naji to be genuine, honest, committed and has a lot of passion and drive to excel.

“Being a mentor has been a wonderful experience and gives me a great feeling of sharing and contribution”.

In our discussion over what we would cover over the 6 months, I clearly understood the challenges and expectations of Naji, and I programmed the session accordingly. Care was taken to ensure there was clear reflection after every session and application of learning. We also spent time sharing each other’s experiences and how we could address specific support to Naji. The normal session was supposed to be for 1 hour, but we invariably far exceeded the timing since our objective was value add with flexibility on timing.

After the initial understanding of the objectives and goals, we addressed a wide range of areas over the 6 months covering a broad range of areas such as types of organisations and how they impacted leadership styles, governance styles and board structures; the future of company boards, and the skills required; CEO success factors and succession; strategy; as well as governance and management best practices in family businesses. In between, we spent time on meditation, pranayama, and yoga to ensure mental calmness and balancing.

Being a mentor has personally helped me in progressing in my life as a part of my continuous learning. It also gave me a feel of joy and satisfaction that I could impart my skills and knowledge to develop next generation leaders.

The only unfortunate part is that we could not meet face to face (other than Zoom) and share a cup of coffee.  Now that the programme has formally ended, I plan to interact with Naji at least once in two months over email or phone till such time when we have an opportunity to meet up in person when time allows.  I have given my commitment to Naji to be available for his support during his journey forward. I am looking forward to continuing my informal interaction with Naji and understand his progress his life.

Naji has been a great mentee and in fact I must say our learning has been mutual. Naji has got a wealth of experience and is a very committed and passionate young professional with a strong will to succeed.

Naji Majdalani

CEO, Wings of Lebanon, MBA’07 based in Beirut

 

 

 

 

I decided to become a mentee as 2020 was a year of reflection and survival for me, and I needed to reach out to individuals with experience and knowledge to bounce off ideas, learn more about the board position and be able to discuss new topics which would give me a new and fresh “mindset”.

Meeting Sreekumar was a true pleasure and a fantastic learning experience. His approach is very subtle, calm yet structured, substantial and generous with personal and professional experience which I believe was the necessary dose of the right ingredients to make him a super mentor.

Sreekumar asked me to prepare my goals and objectives for the INsights programme which I did and shared back. He then laid-out during a pre-start session the plan for the next 3 months with a tentative 6-month plan which we would review as we progressed over time.

Over the 6 months, we spoke about the future of company boards, skills required to be a successful and effective board member, family board setup along with the family council and the necessary structure to make it work. We also looked at best practices for owners/board members within a family business and the relationship with the non-family CEO within the company. Finally, we reviewed scorecards to improve management best practices. During the sessions we always spoke on a personal level and even had a yoga session!

“Sreekumar had great insights from his previous experiences which were very helpful, and I leveraged some of the learnings to get through”.

Being a mentee during this critical period had a positive impact on me personally and professionally as I was able to learn about family boards and try to implement the learnings in my family business, specifically the mechanics and structure of family council, board, etc. and we often spoke about the challenges I faced related to the family setup, culture, and reluctance to change. The learning experience was very enjoyable because Sreekumar made it interesting and fun and it was also something I could relate to in my day-to-day life. It also helped me get through the difficult period when I had to suspend the operations of my airline and let go of 55 employees. Sreekumar had great insights from his previous experiences which were very helpful, and I leveraged some of the learnings to get through.

I consider Sreekumar a friend and a mentor and I will make sure to stay in touch going forward and I hope to meet him in person in the near future to share that cup of coffee!

My advice is to go into the mentoring programme wanting to learn and discover new perspectives. It is also important to take it seriously and be committed to the sessions and the work. Ensuring the mentee and mentor are aligned on the outcome and expectations is crucial to avoid losing steam over the period and having the mentee feel he is working towards a personal target.

 

To find out more about the IDN Insights Director Mentoring Programme, read more here.

 

INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) – An INSEAD Global Club of International Board Directors

Our Mission is to foster excellent Corporate Governance through networking, communication, and self-improvement. IDN has 1500 members from 80 countries, all Alumni from different INSEAD graduations as MBA, EMBA, GEMBA, and IDP-C. We meet in live IDN webinars and meet-ups arranged by our IDN Ambassadors based in 25 countries. Our IDN website holds valuable corporate governance knowledge in our IDN blog, and we share insights also to our LinkedIn and Twitter  followers. We highlight our member through quarterly sharing of their new board appointments and once a year we give out IDN Awards to prominent board accomplishments. We provide a peer-to-per mentoring and board vacancy service and we come together two times per year at the INSEAD Directors Forum arranged by ICGC. We also engage with ICGC on joint research.