Are You Diversifying Your Board Portfolio?

Written by:
Deborah Rosati, FCPA, FCA, ICD.D
Corporate Director, Co-founder & CEO, Women Get On Board

I began my board journey without the thought of diversifying my board portfolio. In saying “board portfolio”, I am referring to the various boards you lead and serve on. These boards collectively make up your board portfolio. Analogous to your investment portfolio, you want to be strategic in developing your board portfolio to accurately reflect your risk profile and the stage/age of your career. Just like your investment portfolio, you should monitor and review your board portfolio on a regular basis to ensure you are getting a return on your board portfolio.

When thinking of diversifying your board portfolio, here are three key areas for consideration:

  1. Consider the Evolution of Your Board Journey

In evaluating the evolution of your board journey, you may think about the size and stage of the boards you serve on. For example, if you join the board of an emerging company, the director’s role is often weighted to a value-add role and more hands-on. As the company matures, the role may become more weighted to an oversight role. To better understand your role on a board, please refer to my previous blog post here.

With that said, it is important to understand consider the time commitment required for each board you serve on. Each board you serve on will go through different stages as a company. These include: emerging, growth, transformation, downsizing and possibly restructuring. Each stage that a company goes through will require different time commitments, so it is critical to be aware of the amount of time you have for each board you serve on.

In being aware of the stages a company goes through, it is important to consider that each board you serve on will be faced with different governance issues during your tenure that will add to your board governance experience. Some governance issues that you might face as a board member include: CEO succession/development, M&A transaction, IPO, major investments, disruption in the industry.

Each stage a board cycles through may present a new or different pace at which they work, depending on what issues the company faces. As a colleague of mine, Tamara Paton, a serving Corporate Director states:  “Even the pace of change facing an organization can give us fresh insight into how organizations work, how to motivate and compensate executives, and how to anticipate disruption.”

As your board journey matures, consider taking on governance leadership roles. As you evolve in your governance experience, you may consider stepping up in leadership roles as a Chair of respective committees you serve on. As a Chair, you learn to: i) generate dialogue among your board colleagues, and ii) facilitate the committee to make informed decisions. Both experiences prove invaluable in advancing your skills as a member on a board and in diversifying your board experience.

  1. Consider Going Outside Your Comfort Zone

When looking to go outside of your comfort zone, ask yourself the following questions:

Have you thought about diversifying your board portfolio by joining boards that are in new industries or sectors? While joining a board in a new industry or sector may present some level of risk, it may also offer an exciting opportunity to expand your skillset. For example, I joined a Canadian Medical cannabis company board that recently went public (see: MedReleaf, TSX-LEAF: https://medreleaf.com). I was initially considered for this board because of my financial expertise, public company, retail/consumer and regulated industry experience. For me, joining MedReleaf offered an opportunity to take learnings from other industries and apply them to the newly emerging cannabis industry.

Have you considered joining a new committee?  I am typically asked to join an Audit Committee because of my financial expertise. However, sometimes it is valuable to venture outside your comfort zone and serve on a committee that will present a steep learning curve. You may bring different perspectives and new ways of looking at governance/business matters the board is facing and prove to be an asset to the committee. Branching out and joining a new committee may open the doors to other opportunities. For example, sometimes a Special Committee (SC), – comprised of independent board members is formed to address unique issues facing the company. The SC issues may include: CEO search, a significant transaction or a special investigation. Such experiences provide unique and challenging learning opportunities where you will learn new skills which you can apply to boards you are already serving on.

When is the last time you took risks or challenged yourself regarding your board portfolio?

When you join a new board or committee, you are provided the opportunity to meet new people outside of your current network. I have joined boards where I was the “outsider” to the existing board and had to “earn trust and credibility” of my board colleagues. It takes time and you need to show up, be prepared, listen and ask questions. While intimidating at first, expanding your network provides the opportunity to learn from others with different industry experience.

  1. Other Issues to Consider When Diversifying Your Board Portfolio

Of vital importance for consideration when taking on new board opportunities is the corporate calendar and the fiscal year-ends. If you have several corporate boards with a fiscal year-end of December 31st, you may experience conflicting demands in regards to your time and schedule. As many of us know, fiscal year-end presents a demanding financial reporting period.

Of final consideration when looking to diversify your board portfolio is board compensation. As a Corporate Director, your board compensation can vary depending on the size and stage of the company you are serving as a board member. There are some good references on board compensation that can be found here: “Canadian Spencer Stuart Board Index 2016 – Board Trends and Practices of Leading Canadian Companies”

When you are thinking about diversifying your board portfolio, the type of board compensation is a consideration. Are you prepared to receive 100% equity based in the form of Deferred Share Units (DSUs) or a mix of cash and equity?  Your board compensation may also depend on the committees you serve on and whether you chair the board or a committee.

As you consider new board opportunities, it is important to consider diversifying one’s board portfolio, otherwise why join a new board?

The Value of Public Sector Board Appointments

Written by:
Audrey Wubbenhorst, MA, MBA
Business Professor, Board Director

Early in my career, I had the privilege of working with a very senior leader at a major financial institution.  At the time, she had significant board experience and was Chair of a large Canadian university.  I was working with her on Communications and travelled with her to listen to her speeches and media interviews.  Over and over again, she would be asked about her career and she spoke candidly about the value that board service brought to her career.

At the time, I started looking into serving on a board.  Altruvest had an online learning program which I completed.  They also had a live database of postings.  I applied to serve on the board of a women’s shelter.  I was interviewed for the role by a panel and was successful.  I worked with that organization for two terms (about six years) and saw them open a new, larger, accessible building.  I had the opportunity to work with all levels of government and contribute to major organizational changes.  I also made some lifelong friends.  It was time well spent.

I took a break from board service for a few years when my son was born but I kept my eye out for openings.  In 2011, Toronto Community Housing was looking for a number of board members.  I applied online without any connection to the organization.  After another panel interview, I was appointed to the board – my first public appointment.  I later was successful in being appointed to the Central LHIN and Build Toronto.  These crown agencies are unique in that they are complex, highly visible and play important roles in our cities and provinces.  Overall they are excellent experiences for developing business acumen, leadership and strategic thinking.

Now I teach a number of courses and have been fortunate to work with students interested in careers in all kinds of fields.  I advise them to get started on their board careers early.  They have so much to offer and have the gift of time to commit and learn.

If you are interested in public appointments, you can find them here:

You can also join Women Get on Board as a member https://womengetonboard.ca and you will receive regular email blasts with board opportunity postings. I will be facilitating a session that will be hosted by Women Get On Board on September 21st,  on “How to Get Appointed to a Public Sector Board” – to register, click here: http://bit.ly/WSSep212017

How to Prepare for Corporate Board Roles

 

photo credit: alexisjordanlewis Board room via photopin (license)
photo credit: alexisjordanlewis

Written by:
Deborah Rosati, FCPA, FCA, ICD.D
Corporate Director, Co-founder & CEO, Women Get On Board

The first step in getting prepared to lead and serve on a corporate board is to make a plan. As, I’ve written about before, getting board-ready is a journey. A journey where you need to be realistic in your skills, experience and value that you bring to a corporate board while acknowledging that there are lots of qualified corporate directors looking for corporate board opportunities.

I’m often asked how to begin a corporate board journey. And my best advice is to ask yourself these 10 questions to help you prepare yourself to lead and serve on a corporate board:

10 Board-Ready Questions

  1. Do you have a minimum of 10 to 15 years of experience in a senior executive role in the public, private, crown or not‐for‐profit sectors?
  2. Are you prepared to commit at least 200 to 300 hours per year to a corporate board role?
  3. Do you have the support of your own Board of Directors and/or senior executives to serve on a board?
  4. Do you have a formal governance certification or designation (C. Dir or ICD.D) from the Directors College or the Institute of Corporate Directors?
  5. Have you ever served on a board, not‐for‐profit or for profit?
  6. Are you a team player that understands the dynamics of boards is one of the most critical components of good governance?
  7. Do you fully understand the role, responsibility and liability of a corporate director?
  8. Do you understand the difference between a board of directors role versus a management role?
  9. Do you have financial acumen—can you read and understand financial statements?
  10. Do you have experience in critical areas in our changing world such as Risk Management, International Markets, M&A, Cyber Security, Digital Media, Big Data, etc.?

To help you begin your board journey, Women Get On Board has two upcoming workshops; “How to prepare yourself for Board roles” on November 2, 2016 and “How to get yourself on a Board” on December 7, 2016.

Hope you can join us!

Top 10 Tips to Help You in Your Journey to a Corporate Board

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Written by:
Deborah Rosati, FCPA, FCA, ICD.D
Corporate Director, Co-founder & CEO, Women Get On Board

Being a Corporate Director is much different than being an executive. A Corporate Director’s role is one of oversight whereas an executive’s role is to manage day-to-day operations. Getting yourself board-ready is a journey where you need to be realistic in your skills, experience and value you bring to a board. You also need to be mindful that it is a very competitive marketplace. There is an over-supply of qualified Corporate Directors for a limited supply of available corporate board seats.

As a Corporate Director and co-founder of Women Get On Board, my goal is to help executives make that transition effectively. This is why I want to share my top 10 tips to help you in your journey to a corporate board.

  1. Be fearless — use your confidence to embrace change.
    ~
    Be independent minded and stand up for what you believe in.
    ~Do the right thing and be ethical in your decisions.
    ~Have courage, be brave, be decisive and be determined.
  1. Plan your journey, set goals and plan the path to your success.
    ~
    Be aspirational in your goals. What do you have a strong desire, longing, aim or ambition for.
    ~Think outside your comfort zone. Where do you want to be in 5 years, 10 years or maybe even 20 years from today?
    ~Tell your inner circle about your journey, goals and/or plans for your future.
  1. Be curious — explore new opportunities and solve problems.
    ~
    Don’t be afraid to ask questions; seek to understand.
    ~Look for ways to re-invent yourself.
    ~Change is good, change is inevitable, so make change part of your life.
  1. Get involved in your community.
    ~
    Seek out not-for-profit board opportunities.
    ~Volunteer for a cause that you care about.
    ~You will meet new people outside of your current business circle that you can help make a difference. 
  1. Continuous learning — invest in your professional development.
    ~
    As professionals we have continuing professional development requirements…go beyond your requirements.
    ~Mastery =10,000 hours in a particular skill/expertise etc.
    ~Knowledge is power, so keep learning!
  1. Be your authentic self. (From The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz)
    ~“Be Impeccable with your Word.”
    ~“Don’t take anything Personal.”
    ~“Don’t Make Assumptions.”
    ~“Always do your Best.”
  1. Network, network, network.
    ~
    Go to events that matter to you and meet new people.
    ~Invite someone new out to lunch or coffee.
    ~Ask for introductions.
  1. Be visible — speak up and stand out.
    ~
    Be a thought leader; post your blogs, presentations and articles on social media.
    ~Speak up/comment on topics you care about or have expertise on.
    ~Take on leadership roles.
  1. Seek out mentors and sponsors.
    ~
    Look for a mentor outside of your organization. Find someone who inspires you.
    ~Become a mentor to others. You will learn a lot from them!
    ~Seek out a sponsor. Look for someone who will make introductions for you.
  1. Embrace and use social media to promote yourself.
    ~Enhance your profile on LinkedIn.
    ~Be active, thoughtful and relevant in your social media.
    ~Leverage your LinkedIn to attract new business, speaking and career opportunities.

If you would like more information and tips on how to prepare yourself for board roles, please visit Women Get On Board for information on the 2016 Getting Board-ready workshops. The purpose of the workshops is to help women gain insights and learn about the skills they need to prepare for board opportunities. These half-day workshops will be facilitated by corporate directors and governance experts. They will share their experiences to empower women to become more confident in order to lead and serve on boards.