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« Critical First Step to Getting Better Team Results | Main | Stand up for yourself! »

Get on Board - Make Your Mark!

First published in IoD Magazine, May/June 2017


At the IOD Women’s Leadership Conference, we heard from 4 women panelists, each encouraging us to ‘get on board’. But why bother? What do we have to offer? What prevents us from making our mark?  I summarise below the views and encouragement from the panel on the subject, along with my own musings on the matter.

Women bring unique value to the board

One example quoted was stopping ‘group’ think. Brain science now tells us that women are more divergent thinkers. Forcing consideration of other possibilities is risk mitigation in action and some may say could have saved the banking crisis (we’ll never know but it fun to say that anyway). 
Other skills mentioned including listening. Women can tend to be better listeners so that all bodes well.  The suggestion was to listen with intent, a special kind of listening.

Some advice

When you don’t know something, as my mother was always fond of saying  “you have a tongue in your head”, which was usually said when we were lost and needed directions, and applies equally well here. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity

Be tactful and articulate. Perhaps now we are getting into murkier water. We may well be accused of either biting our tongue and being ‘nice’ or  on the other hand being ‘aggressive’.  That double bind women face – dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t.  And in a traditionally male culture our tendency may be not to speak up particularly if someone else has just said what we think. The advice here was clear...

“Always speak up and give your opinion – it may be a repeat of what someone else has said, which you can acknowledge, but it will have your own spin on it and the board needs to hear that.”

And add to that the courage to say what has to be said and constructively challenge.
And that word ‘confidence’ raised its head.  Have confidence that you have the skills and experience. Have the confidence to take control of the agenda (the truth is you have a responsibility to do so).

What is stopping us?

One myth that was dispelled was the need to have specific domain knowledge. Your own experience and skillset is what is needed as well as good governance, a skillset that you can learn.  As a man at our table said (I know!!!! – I think he felt how us women usually feel – totally outnumbered), women are visible on boards in health and education, and they should realise they have as much to contribute in other sectors as well. He was speaking in particular about the technology sector which is currently grossly under represented. Coming from that sector once upon a time I did drop my head in shame!

Final words of advice included 

  • act with integrity
  • be the original, not a copy of yourself 
  • be true to the situation in hand, this earns respect
  • equip yourself
  • understand the challenges
  • feel the fear and do it anyway
  •  “turn up” with attitude to support, challenge and guide
  • trust more in your abilities!

So is it all worth your while?

The answer was a resounding YES because you:

  • meet people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet
  • can bring the skills/knowledge back into your organisation
  • learn so much from other people
  • learn how to solve problems, how to work as a team, as a collective
  • unleash your own passion
  • get the opportunity to align with an organisaiton with the same values

Easier said than done?

All very sound advice, nothing you could argue with, some of it very profound. And some might say ‘easier said than done”. One of the panel, a relatively new board member was honest enough to admit that going on to a board was very daunting and she wondered  ‘what could I offer?’ As Henry Ford says, If you think you can, or think you can’t - you’re right.”

Make Your Mark

So if you just a tiny bit attracted to being on a board, want to trust more in your own abilities, become more self assured and learn some techniques to contribute in a way that suits you, then consider attending “Get on Board – Make Your Mark” which I will be facilitating for the IOD sometime in October (keep an eye out for the date). 

A complementary workshop to IOD's “Become a Competent Director” which covers governance, this workshop focuses on you!  For women who want to make a real difference and aren’t just be there to ‘make up the numbers’ this interactive workshop will help you ‘take your place’ and quickly establish yourself as a credible board member.

Expect to be all fired up and raring to go after attending this workshop! 

I'll keep you posted about the date.
Love Anne

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