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.

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.

 

How can IDN’s mentoring programme help your board career

How can IDN’s INsights 2021 Director Mentoring Programme support your director journey?

By Karen Loon IDP-C, IDN Board Member

Starting out on a board career is not easy, even for the most seasoned C-suite executives.  In fact, many people would argue that being a board director is not an extension of your career, but an entirely new one!

To support our INSEAD Directors’ Network (“IDN”) members, our INsights Director Mentoring Programme (‘the “Programme”) which is now in its third year supports IDN members to achieve their specific goals.

This unique programme 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.

We recently asked Helen Wiseman, IDN Board Member, professional mentor and an experienced board director who facilitates the programme to share more.

Can you share a bit about the Programme?

The INsights Director Mentoring Programme is a structured six-month programme offered by IDN that is aimed at members of the IDN who are early in their board careers and who 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.

Whilst in an ideal world, mentors and mentees come from the same geography, our mentors and mentees “meet” at a distance in keeping with INSEAD’s global positioning. What is key that the mentee can access mentoring support that will help them achieve their goals for the Programme.

The Programme structure is designed to ensure that mentees get the maximum out of the Programme and are not left to “drift”. The Programme is also in line with best practice mentoring programmes, whilst being delivered remotely.

Our mentors, who are experienced board directors volunteer their time and expertise in a way that maximises the value of their contribution and respects their time.  They have the opportunity to expand their networks and get exposure to a potential talent pool.

The role of the Programme Facilitator is to ensure that the programme is on-track through a series of monthly facilitated group sessions (“INsights Peer Mentee Calls”).

What is the time commitment of the Programme?

The INsights 2021 Mentoring Programme will be offered online.  It comprises:

  • Mentee and mentor applications and onboarding
  • Six monthly INsights Peer Mentee Calls (via Zoom)
  • Programme exit – Personal Development Programme, Survey/Feedback/testimonials
  • Programme follow-up, gather 2021 mentee/mentor referrals – “Pay it forward.”

A unique feature of the Programme is that mentees are part of a cohort of peer mentees who go through the programme together and share their insights and learnings with each other on monthly (facilitated) basis.  Subject to preserving confidentiality of mentees and mentors, the mentees get the benefit of a much wider set of insights compared with one-on-one mentoring.

What are some of the benefits to mentees?

Our mentees from the 2020 Programme have shared that they have benefited immensely from the programme in a broad range of areas including:

  • Opportunity to network with similar minded professionals, enhance personal brand and director style
  • Gaining fresh perspective, new ideas and different ways of thinking
  • Providing feedback on practical challenges in the area of board dynamics
  • Knowledge sharing

One of our mentees has shared that “Normally it takes years to come up the NED learning curve…and a few mistakes along the way. My mentor saved me a year or two easily”.

“Board roles can be lonely: you can’t always turn to the other board members to discuss your ambitions, hopes, challenges and doubts. Who provides you with the necessary diversity in perspective? This IDN programme answers that question, with a mentor, and with a community of peers from all over the world” IDN 2020 INsights Director Mentoring Programme mentee

Can you share a bit more about the profile of the mentors?  Why should I volunteer as a mentor for the Programme?

We draw upon our pool of highly experienced IDN members to be mentors.  Some of them are willing to be a one-on-one mentor for the programme duration and some are happy to be called upon for single-session mentoring based on their specific expertise or experiences. This ensures that there is a wide pool of mentors and who are able to share a broad range of experiences with mentees.

In addition to broadening their networks, many of our mentors have shared that they have learnt a lot as mentors, and that they have found the experience of supporting the lifelong learning enjoyable.

“I always find the mentoring process incredibly rewarding and enlightening. It’s wonderful to feel that I am contributing to someone’s development and there are myriad opportunities to see my own development needs mirrored in the conversations that we have” – IDN 2020 INsights Director Mentoring Programme mentor

I am interested in the joining Programme as a mentor or mentee.  What are the next steps?

Our application process for the IDN INsights 2021 Director Mentoring Programme will open shortly.  Potential mentees should note that selection is based, inter alia, on clarity of their goals and commitment to completing the programme – including joining monthly Peer Mentee calls.

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.

Why Some Boards Add Value and Some Don’t

Webinar Summary of Lifelong Learning IDN Webinar

By Karen Loon IDP-C with inputs from Roy Ling GEMBA

How do boards and board directors best equip themselves to deal with the challenges of innovation and disruption, and how do they add value? 

INSEAD Directors’ Network (“IDN”) members Denise Koopmans IDP-C, Roy Ling GEMBA, and Hagen Schweinitz IDP-C shared their diverse views and experiences on these questions in an INSEAD Lifelong Learning session by IDN, sponsored by the INSEAD Alumni Association on 19 January 2021.  The session was chaired by IDN Board Member, Liselotte Engstam IDP-C.

Prior to the session, participants were surveyed and asked to share their views on the effects their boards have on company value. The key findings suggest that the top area which boards have been focusing on in more recent times is value adding strategies.

The panellists shared their candid views and insights, as well as practical feedback on key developments in corporate governance in more recent times.  These included:

  • How boards can be successful at creating value – Successful boards invest sufficient time on board work; maintain a well-rounded team; and have an effective chairperson who runs meetings well, as good leadership sets the tone for the board as a whole and sets the stage for a more value enhancing board.  As Roy Ling shared:

Boards should maintain a well rounded team with a culture of trust and respect, where directors and management challenge each other with constructive feedback”.

  • Changing dynamics in the way boards work – Boards are becoming increasingly agile and forward looking, working together through many challenges. They are discussing strategy and scenario development more frequently.  More backward-looking topics are being discussed in committees.  Decisions are being made faster, there is more focus on task forces to deal with certain topics, and more open flow of information.
  • Having board diversity – Not just in the areas of gender, age or experience, but diversity of opinion, personalities and capabilities. Directors need to be comfortable with differences of opinion.  A question which was discussed was how good companies are at finding independent directors.  The panellists also shared that whilst specialist skills such as digital, innovation and sustainability are important, directors also need to have other skills such as leadership and being able to operate in a team to be effective in the boardroom.
  • A growing focus on board reviews – With the increasing need to further professionalise boards, leading boards undertake regular self-assessments on board performance on Board composition and dynamics, how boards perform specific board tasks and how boards operate. More advanced organisations focus more interviews and less on questionnaires.  Annual review processes including the use of peer reviews with 360-degree feedback are also becoming more common.  Many also obtain external third party periodic “health checks” to evaluate the feedback process.

Participants highlighted that they believe that the top area of focus of their boards in 2021 will be digital innovation.  The panelists also shared that areas such as talent management, human resources and effective board processes should not be ignored by boards in 2021.  As Denise Koopmans shared:

Boards have  become more leading, agile and forward looking. They have speedy and resilient decision making processes with ad hoc committees, deep dives and task forces as support. The board agenda is more geared towards strategic challenges and the role of the Chair as facilitator is critical.

On board processes, many boards remain focused on upholding corporate governance and compliance with regulations.  However, a challenge is that directors who have extensive views on how to reinvent the company and its business model may often not receive adequate attention from the board due to limited board time. One suggestion was that perhaps an ‘Innovation Committee’ should be formed to get more board attention. The innovation committee role is to actively motivate and facilitate management’s ideas and initiatives on innovation and productivity.

Another idea was that a review of the board’s agenda is a good way to measure board effectiveness. If the same items are appearing on the agenda with no resolution, it may be an indication that the board lacks the necessary expertise to deal with the issue.

How can directors keep up to date?

A challenge for most directors is how can they keep up to date as a board member.  In addition to leverages such as the IDN network, recommendations included:

  1. Engaging between board meetings. Not just about spending more time on board strategy, it’s also about being able to connect with management in between meetings and staying current. But how often should they meet? Boards need to experiment to figure this out, but the key is to remember that boards are only as good as the information they have access to.
  2. Engaging with strategy as it is forming. Directors can participate early in the formation of strategy and stress-test it along the way, as opposed to reviewing a strategy that’s been fully thought through by management.
  3. Engaging on the tough questions. It is important to ask uncomfortable questions that extend beyond strategy sessions to a wide range of issues. Every board member does not necessarily need to have industry experience, but you must have the courage in the boardroom to ask the difficult questions.

As Hagen Schweinitz shared:

Being a board director is now a profession with a lot of obligations. And future board reviews will look at how board members behave, interact and how independent they are.

COVID-19 has reshaped board strategy

COVID-19 has certainly disrupted and reshaped how boards undertook strategy work in 2020. While many boards are tempted to refocus from long-term growth to short-term survival due to COVID-19, this could be a grave mistake. Instead, boards should capitalize on the COVID-19 opportunity to reposition and pivot their companies to strengthen their positioning and come out ahead. The participants suggested that boards need to be aware of three areas.

  1. Resilience comes through speed. COVID-19 gave rise to many uncertainties and changes. But boards need to guide management processes for fast responses. The point isn’t to have the right answer. The point is to build organisational capability to learn quickly why your answer is wrong and pivot faster than your peers do.
  2. Beware of a gulf between board and management and workers. While it is relatively easy for boards and management to switch to remote working, and they see it as effective and efficient, those in the trenches may not see it as so.
  3. More than ever, a bias to action is essential, which will frequently mean getting comfortable with boardroom disagreement.

Looking ahead

While 2020 has been a year of disruption, 2021 is a year of renewal.  Some areas for board directors to watch out for are:

  1. Always work on your own game as a director – Continuing education remains important.
  2. For people who want to join boards, carefully check if there is a match between your skills and the needs of the company, as well as a good fit and trust. Remain resilient and have sufficient time for your board roles.
  3. Spend even more time on board strategy – Manage through the COVID-19 crisis and into the new normal. Renew board processes to make them more effective and efficient.  Balance trust with challenging discourse.  Consider appointing an ambitious Board Chairman and rethink the annual agenda in 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 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.

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

Resource list

INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre (“ICGC”) research and articles

A checklist for boards in the new normal (INSEAD Knowledge Post)

Leadership in Risk Management (report)

The market for corporate directors (report)

Innovation & Corporate Renewal also disrupt Boards (report)

IDN Blogposts with related insights 

The evolving role of the board in the Covid-19 environment 

Board Dynamic Capabilities in Disruptive Times 

Can Digital Committees solve board challenges 

Getting your first board position 

Related webinar recordings

The End of Shareholder primacy?

Driving Tech for Good, the role of Company Boards 

Related Podcast Interviews

Create and believe in the Future with INSEAD Strategy Professor Nathan Furr

Experienced Board Chair INSEAD President Helen Pitcher OBE

Interview with Dr. Carole Ackermann, 2020 IDN Award winner

“To be successful as a board member, you really have to love what you’re doing” – Dr. Carole Ackermann

Interview with Dr. Carole Ackermann, IDP 8 2015, Chair, École hôtelière de Lausanne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In October 2020, INSEAD Directors Network (IDN) announced the four winners of the 2020 Inaugural IDN Awards 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 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.

Dr. Carole Ackermann was one of the winners of the not-for-profit category.  We recently had the opportunity to ask Carole about her illustrious board career and her advice for aspiring directors.

You have had a successful career working with a range of different organisations and with exposure to several disciplines.  What made you decide to take on board directorships?

Passion for all kinds of innovation and change, whether technological, organizational, culture or people – that’s driving me. I am a curious person; I like to be challenged and I love to work with people and in teams. As a board member and Sparring Partner for Management, I have the privilege to share my experience in different fields and help companies to embrace today’s world of technical, economic, and social complexity and ambiguity.

What are some of the key topics which your boards are focusing on in 2021?

Even though Covid-19 has changed the way we work together, the board still needs to dig deep into the companies matters, ask the tough questions, and help the CEO and executive board to find the “best” solutions and adequate measures.

Depending on the industry, the focus these days is more on costs, on organizational matters, or on innovation to catch up with new customer’s needs. Certainly, sustainability and digitization are important topics also in 2021.

Issues (Matters) I personally focus on are staying the strategic course with innovation, agility, and customer orientation combined with a strong, people-oriented corporate culture.

What areas do you focus on when you undertake due diligence on potential new board roles?

Currently, I am more than happy with my portfolio and I am not looking for new board assignments.

But looking back it’s the question – what can I contribute and what can I learn – this give and take balance. This, besides the obvious parameters such as the company’s reputation, its culture, its potential, its major challenges, its corporate governance, and finally the industry sector. As in any other job, to be successful as a board member, you really have to love what you’re doing.

But even if you did your due diligence, there is no such thing as the risk-free option. It is always about being attentive and making sure that you stay curious about new developments.

What are the areas which you believe that aspiring directors should focus on when starting their board career?

The first thing is getting to know the company and your new colleagues. Then it’s about listening and understanding what’s going on.

For sure, a new director needs a certain knowledge in the new area – that is important for the company and ideally, this is supported by emotional intelligence, experience and interest in the company and its people.

But rather than focusing on a special subject and trying to change everything from day one, I would use the privilege of being new to listen and watch first as from the best seat in the opera.

 

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.
About INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre.
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

Getting your first board position

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

What are the key actions that will increase the likelihood of getting your first board position?

INSEAD Directors Network (“IDN”) members recently had the opportunity to learn more about experiences and insights into the board recruitment process from four experienced IDN members:

in an exclusive webinar for members held on 1 December 2020 which was facilitated by IDN Board Member, Liselotte Engstam based in Sweden with Q&A support from Hagen Schweinitz, a fellow IDN Board Member based in Germany.

Participants heard from the panellists about their experiences getting their first board roles and growing their board portfolios.  They also had the opportunity to also to learn more about how an executive search firm can help directors.  Key advice by the panellists included:

  1. Invest in ongoing board education
  2. Have a clear vision on what roles make more sense to you
  3. Do thorough due diligence
  4. Build your board experience by collecting different facets of experience
  5. Don’t go it alone – find a mentor and a tribe to share and learn from
  6. Build your networks

Invest in ongoing board education

  • Continuous board education is important for all directors, even if you have had board roles as part of your executive career.
  • For international directors, consider both board education in your local market(s) as well as continuous education from programmes such as the INSEAD Directors’ Programme (“IDP”) and subsequently via the INSEAD Directors Network. The IDP programme provides participants with new perspectives including on the values and capabilities which they needed to act as independent directors and allows them gain greater perspective on the role of the board.
  • Keep your governance knowledge up to date but keep it practical and fit for purpose.

 Have a clear vision on what roles make sense to you

  • Do upfront research on what are the geographies, sectors and companies where you can and wish to best contribute. What is your unique selling proposition?  How many boards do you wish to be a director on?
  • Choose your targets by doing your research – what is the story behind the story i.e., what are they really grappling with at the boardroom table?  How might the current composition of the board be playing out?  Form a hypothesis and climb into the mind of the Chair.  What value do you bring both to the scenario and the different thinking styles and experiences of the board?
  • Get clear on your positioning so that people can easily remember you, build a networking plan (see below) based on the above research.
  • Prepare well for your interviews.
  • Collect your war stories for example from your executive, particularly crises requiring a collective with backbone to work through the issues, or influence across authorities – indicators of how you might perform on a board.

Due diligence

Be thorough on your due diligence on potential board roles.  Understand red flags and the culture of the organisation.

Build your board experience by collecting different facets of experience

  • Build your board experience by collecting different facets of experience to broaden your value offering for example industries, types of transactions/corporate actions, different stages in the life cycle etc.
  • Be willing to start on non-profit organisations and advisory boards.

Don’t go it alone – find a mentor and a tribe to share and learn from

  • Don’t go it alone, find a tribe to share experiences with and learn from (for example IDN, your local director association, Women on Boards).
  • Find a personal mentor (for example, a senior board director) who can help a new director to fine tune their communication styles for effective board decision making, taking into consideration personal values and styles. This will help you increase your confidence to look for further roles.  Consider joining IDN’s mentoring programme.

Networking externally and within your boards

  • Make yourself visible and able to be found. Ensure your LinkedIn bio is up to date.
  • Let people know that you want board roles (both your close contacts and more broadly).
  • Consider doing some public speaking at events or associations or industry specific events, writing a column in a publication or starting a business blog to position yourself as an expert worthy of being considered to sit on a board. IDN members may wish to volunteer to contribute to IDN’s regular blogs.
  • If you are not yet on a board, and still in an executive role, see if you can find opportunities to present in front of your current board to get familiar with the board rooms, dynamics, and structure.
  • Seek active endorsement and references from people who have seen you presenting and interacting in a boardroom.
  • Finally, if you are already on a board, don’t forget to focus on building strong personal relationships with your director peers and management.

IDN’s mentoring programme which is available exclusively for IDN members will be accepting applications in early 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 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.
About INSEAD Corporate Governance Centre.
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

Corporate Governance in Startups

The need for appropriate governance in startups is becoming increasingly acknowledged, however the experience in doing so in the best possible way is however limited.

Luc Sterckx, President and member of the boards of a number of international boards, and an INSEAD alumnus and IDP-C (INSEAD Certified International Director) has recently published his book, “Corporate Governance in Startups” which clarifies the distinctions which need to be made, in particular in the context of the limited means of a startup.

The book combines the structural and legal basis of governance in startups with his extensive experience in the field over several years and shows the way of very practical implementation including setting the right priorities.

We asked Luc his advice on the following important questions:

How do you implement good governance in a start up?  What should be the right priorities?

Given the limited resources (in time, experience, competence) of a startup, implementing of good corporate governance is not an easy task – that does not make it less important however quite the contrary.

When asked what the priorities should be, I think compliance with legal provisions is a first must have, second investing into an appropriate board of directors and thirdly realizing you start on a never ending journey of continuous improvement in this field. It is a team effort much like in bigger companies but in a quite significant environment.

The implementation of good Corporate Governance in a startup is mostly a matter of learning and improving along the way. In the often-hectic environment of getting a company launched, Governance seldomly gets the priority it deserves (although this appears to be changing).

Anyway, at the start the situation will be what it is, which probably is a long distance away from “best” Governance practices. That should not be necessarily too negative, provided there is consensus on continuous improvement of the Governance process.

What are the best practices you recommend in governing startups which allow them to remain workable and efficient compared to bigger companies?

A startup by definition is facing a serious number of challenges and choices – possibly even larger and more complicated than an “established” company. The need for focus has been stressed before but considering the many options and questions, it is clear that not all matters might get focus. It is all a matter of setting priorities and setting such priorities, balance is essential and Governance structures play an important role in this process.

“It is all a matter of setting priorities and setting such priorities, balance is essential and Governance structures play an important role in this process.”

The first balance which needs to be respected is the one between the short and the long term. In a startup fires abound, and it is tempting (and sometimes necessary) to turn the entire team into firefighters.

The second balance is the one between the different stakeholders, where especially the interaction between founders- entrepreneurs-shareholders-managers on one side and the external shareholders on the other is a tricky one.  A particular point of interest is the relationship with the founder(s) – he/she or they did not start the company to become experts or champions in Corporate Governance. Their key values and interests revolve around creativity, freedom, growth … and these should be taken into account and above all respected by the Governance structures.

The third balance in the company relates to the structure of the balance sheet. In particular, the company should be attentive at financing the long-term capital needs by long term liabilities such as equity and long-term loans.

The fourth balance concerns the necessity to maintain a creative, entrepreneurial free spirit and atmosphere in the company while on the other side a similar necessity to manage and control the company through instruments such as budgets, reports, procedures.  Once a company has been set up, the latter principle becomes unavoidable whereas the former necessity can be and often is essential for the growth of the company.

The fact that financial resources are always with a limit makes it however necessary to stay in control of what is happening. That can be done in a remote way, at arm’s length by allowing “creativity with a purpose” to evolve within a given framework. A lot will depend on the personalities of the people involved in this debate, but with some goodwill things can be straightened out.

What would be your key recommendation to directors who are asked to be on the board of a start-up?

I don’t think these are so different from the ones for “ordinary” companies.

Before anything else understand the fundamentals of the business and the strengths / weaknesses of the company are prime objectives. And maybe some particular qualities required: be flexible and above all prepare to ride the storm!