THE IRREPLACEABLE VALUE OF EXPERIENCE

Mentoring Chairmen

Those aspiring to chair the Board of a listed company for the first time, whether they are candidates or recently nominated, are taking on a profoundly different and distinctive leadership challenge. Top-level prior experience, gained in both executive and non-executive roles, takes them only so far. Stepping up to Chairman is a subtle transition from operator to influencer, from counsellor to consensus-builder and, above all, from talker to listener.

Successful Chairmen swiftly learn to master their egos and behave in a different way, whilst remaining true to their authentic selves. But some trial and error is also inevitable, and this can be at the expense of optimum performance, especially in the early stages of tenure.

Our Chairman Mentors have experience and a deep understanding of what becoming a successful Chairman involves. Shaping the Board, engendering trust and teamwork, whilst remaining ruthlessly objective and coping with the unexpected, are just some of the skills they have learned to master. Between them, they have served on close to 550 listed company Boards, spread across all industry sectors and in 29 different jurisdictions.

Reflections from a recently appointed Chairman

"I anticipated before taking my first Chairman appointment, and then encountered it as a reality, that the role and responsibilities of Chairman are utterly different from those of a CEO, especially with no direct control of resources to make things happen. The need to perfect a different leadership style, whilst in theory being obvious, is in practice more testing. So, mentoring support from seasoned Chairmen was extremely helpful.

Whether as a first-time Chairman taking on a settled "steady state" board, or a team that has to be re-shaped, one needs help to play oneself in.

Working with experienced Chairman Mentors was invaluable in 3 key respects: firstly in being able to pick their brains on the "tools" of the job; (for example preparing for and running a good AGM; planning and hosting an effective strategy session; board team performance management; building a strong board team; and shareholder relationships); secondly, in being able to brainstorm the issues that needed to be addressed; and thirdly in being able to discuss freely anxieties and uncertainties, drawing upon the Mentors' experience of dealing with similar issues themselves, including the lessons they had learned from their own setbacks.

Finally, for me, it was the transfer of the experience of Chairmanship and the chemistry match between myself and my Mentors which were the most important criteria in their selection. Relevant industry/sector experience was useful, but not essential."