Leading Boards discussion
Last night I attended a GMA event on ‘Leading Boards’ with Michael Chaney, Margaret Sears and Michael Smith – each have extensive Board experience, here are my notes:

Chaney:

  • putting a Board together has become more of a serious business
  • usually there is a full search process, with a skills matrix showing gaps that need filling
  • make yourself known to search firms that fill Boards if interested
  • leading a Board – the Chair has an important role – to keep things open, and have every question answered satisfactorily
  • Chairs must be democratic (to a degree), inclusive but also decisive – send out options but say which you prefer and why, give guidance
  • appraising Board members is an annual affair, taken seriously
  • go through each appraisal with Board member
  • non performing ones (don’t read the papers, few contributions or too obstructive) are ‘retired’
  • ideal number of Board is 8-10

Sears:

  • Google “Enron and ethics” to see countless journals and papers on what happens when culture is wrong
  • must brief Board members on what their role is
  • Chairs do not work if too autocratic or too democratic
  • intrusion into management is a no no
  • beware the ‘Squeaky Wheel’ who gets the oil – they are probably not inclusive, otherwise they’d talk less!

Smith:

  • Boards are time consuming and can spend all their time on risk management and not on performance
  • Boards should be about working with high performing members, to improve the business
  • few Boards set goals, but it is crucial – real goals at the beginning of the year – how they will add value, what they can achieve this year
  • the informal time a Board spends together can be more valuable than similar Board meetings with familiar set agenda items and rhythmn
  • allow some time for unstructured discussion, for the best ideas come then
  • go to the management group and ask ‘how can we help your performance’?
  • each Board member should have individual goal(s) to strive for, something they can concentrate on

All great advice for those on Boards or who are aspiring to be on them. I had heard Chaney and Sears many times before and they were both excellent as always, but it was the first time I’d heard Michael Smith (Chair of iiNet, Synergy among others) and he made a really strong impression. Very open and honest, forthright and spoke good sense.

About the author

Charlie has spent more than 20 years in Perth’s tech and startup sector, firstly as a founder himself, through to exit, and more recently as a writer, advisor and investor. Originally from the UK, Charlie worked in Singapore before arriving in Perth in 1997 to do an MBA at UWA. Graduating as top student in 1999 he set up online real estate business aussiehome.com, running it for 10 years before selling to REIWA, whereupon Charlie ran reiwa.com. In 2013, he moved to Business News to lead their digital transformation as CEO, and then worked for the federal government’s Accelerating Commercialisation program, funding pre-revenue startups and innovative businesses. He now works in an advisory capacity for multiple tech and other businesses, is managing editor of Startup News and co-host of the Startup West podcast. He also writes a column for Business News on startups. Charlie sits on the advisory boards of WA Leaders, TEDxPerth, WAITTA, the Perth Symphony Orchestra, and the full board of Rise Network.

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1 Response
  1. Antoine Musu

    Thank you Charlie for taking time to do this. Unfortunately I was away notwithstanding I booked for the event at the time it was announced.

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