BOARD AT WORK
Seek the right fit
BUSINESS people who are asked to take a board position or aspire to such a role are being advised to thoroughly research an organisation before they become involved.
The difference between why some boards succeed and others fail can be attributed to a range of reasons, including the skill sets of those on the board, the organisation’s financial position and its strategic future.
Governance Matters executive director Kate Costello, who has run the consultancy for 25 years, says corporate leaders need to weigh up the consequences and advantages to their career and the organisation before joining its board. ‘‘ The pertinent advice is that you don’t just accept it, you need to do your due diligence,’’ she says. ‘‘Firstly, what is the financial position of the organisation because you particularly need to know what the accounts look like.
‘‘Secondly, it’s good to question and see how (fine-tuned) the company’s strategic direction is.
‘‘Finally, you need to look at the calibre of the people who sit around the boardroom table.’’
Ms Costello, who has a law degree and previously worked in management at a commercial law firm, says people who are looking to gain a position on a board need to look at their own skill sets and find an industry and organisation that best suits them.
Traditionally, many women have gone from positions on school councils and community not-for-profit boards to similar roles in the corporate sector.
‘‘For a lot of women that’s been the normal program towards a commercial board appointment,’’ Ms Costello says.
‘‘In the ‘olden days’ you got a tap on the shoulder (to take a board role). These days, it’s more rigorous. Nevertheless, it’s still very much word of mouth and who you know that can help you get a board spot.’’
When it comes to starting your research, Ms Costello advises business people to look at websites, such as The Australian In- stitute of Company Directors and State and Federal Government sites, to get a greater understanding of organisations which have boards. And while the number of women in board positions is slowly improving in Australia, Ms Costello says it is still far from a level playing field between females and males.
‘‘I think we are going to have to have some legislative imperative (to encourage companies to employ more women on boards),’’ she says.
‘‘All that means is that organisations are more likely to look beyond their normal ‘catchment group’. There are sensational women out there with fabulous experience.’’
She says she often recommends women for board positions when asked. ‘‘I have been on boards as the sole female,’’ she says. ‘‘There tends to be the same women on several boards.’’
Governance Matters executive director Kate Costello advises potential board members to do their homework.