Diversity in Governance: 6 go-to’s for aspiring directors and trustees

Diversity in governance is hot topic. There is growing recognition that diversity at the board table can have positive impact on an organisation’s performance. In my view, we need to build boards that are diverse, connected and passionate; that lead with integrity, purpose and creativity. Strong governance requires people that bring unique lenses and mindsets to building robust and strong enterprises.
On the other hand, I’m increasingly asked by aspiring directors and people seeking governance roles how to go about developing career in governance? And conversely, chairs and boards interested in diversifying the talent around their board tables ask how they can identify and recruit skilled and talented people from more diverse pool of experienced individuals from across society to take up governance roles?
I’m personally committed to helping New Zealand build new generation of authentic and ethical leaders and increasing diversity of representation on our boards. So here are my top six go-to’s to help individuals kick-start or develop governance career. My suggestions are based on my own experience, research, networks and connections and belief that there are some fundamental things aspiring directors need to do if they are serious about seeking governance roles.
• Be an active architect of your governance career Don’t just put your name on database somewhere and hope to get ‘discovered’ or have roles find you.
• Self-assessment Do you know what boards are out there? Have you thought about the types of organisations or boards you want to be part of? Do they align with your values, goals, interests? Have you done an assessment of your own skills and what you can bring to board?
• Learn about governance Do you understand what governance is? Are you ready for the change in leadership required and collective decision-making process that occurs around board table?
• Get some real-life experience If you have never been on board then look for opportunities to contribute your skills to community, social-profit organisations, non government organisations (NGO), or small to medium enterprise boards.
• Network and connect with organisations and people who are interested in and focused on building governance capability through which you can learn about governance from experienced directors. Find mentors and sponsors who will assist you with your governance aspirations.
There are several key initiatives, organisations, resources and networks out there focused on growing the governance pipeline and building more diverse pool of potential directors and trustees.

1 Springboard NZ (www.springboardnz.org) focuses on encouraging and developing the next generation of New Zealand’s directors and trustees. Join the Springboard Linked In Group at http://www.linkedin.com/groups/SpringBoard-NZ-1833003/about Springboard members are aged 45 years or under, and have experience as director, trustee or board appointee of company, trust or not for profit, and reside in New Zealand.
On Board, Springboard’s practical governance training programme, is held four times year, and tailored to cater for beginners through to intermediate-and-above levels of experience.

2 appoint better boards (www.appointbetterboards.co.nz) is designed for those looking for governance role or for organisations seeking directors and trustees. Check out the website to register as potential director – registration is free.
Appoint’s pool of 892 registered directors and trustees are: 47% female, 48% under 45, 19% non NZ European and have total 6606 years of governance experience. (Statistics as at 31/5/2012.)

3 The Ministry of Women’s Affairs’ Women on Boards website (www.mwa.govt.nz/women-on-boards) has advice on boards in Aotearoa, including:
– Information about the different types of boards.
– governance map.
– Tips on how to get into governance roles, including real stories from experienced women directors.
– self-assessment tool that helps individuals identify their strengths and experiences.
– How to create governance CV.
– nominations service to register with and, when ready, get on the database!

4 Women on Boards NZ (www.wob.org.nz). WOBNZ, according to CEO Lesley White, aims to be the nationwide group advocating for increasing the numbers of women on boards of directors. It uses social media to provide tools and network contacts to empower women directors to fulfil board roles at all levels. Its focus is on developing the leadership skills of professional women to position them for future governance roles.
WOBNZ has Linked In group: www.linkedin.com/groups/Women-on-Boards-NZ-4174358?trk=myg_ugrp_ovr.

5 EEO Trust (www.eeotrust.org.nz) advocates for the benefits of diversity in business and promotes greater board diversity.
The Trust’s “A Place At The Table” – partnership between the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and the EEO Trust – is long-term project which aims to boost the numbers of women and others in governance positions. The website provides excellent resources, articles, links to forums and workshops (http://www.eeotrust.org.nz/a_place_at_the_table/index.cfm).

6 Institute of Directors (www.iod.org.nz). Joining the IOD and/or doing its governance programmes can, for those just starting out, be costly and bit over the top. The programmes are skewed to the corporate and commercial sector.
The IOD has useful website (www.iod.org.nz/FirstBoardsFirstDirectors/FirstDirectors.aspx) which anyone can access. It gives good information about directorships, boards, good governance principles and best practice.
The IOD also runs one-day Not For Profit Governance Essentials course (see www.iod.org.nz/DirectorDevelopment).
For more experienced trustees and board members considering moving from the not-for-profit and NGO sectors into larger public sector boards, and commercial/corporate roles, IOD membership is useful. The institute’s breakfasts and lunches provide networking opportunities and the professional development programmes and workshops are excellent for those with the budget.
The Principles of Best Practice for New Zealand Directors and The Four Pillars of Effective Board Governance documents cover four fundamental areas relating to corporate governance: determination of purpose, an effective governance culture, holding to account, and effective compliance. The IOD also provides practical guide to creating governance CV. Members can upload their CV onto the IOD database and get access to advertised NFP director roles. To bone up on what it means to be director or trustee read the following two books: The Complete Guide to Good Governance in Organisations and Companies written by Doug Matheson, an experienced and long serving New Zealand director, and/or his shorter handbook, Great Governance: How the Best Boards Work. They are invaluable and I refer to them constantly (see www.management.co.nz or tinyurl.com/84kgyzb).
Aspiring directors or trustees serious about networking and connecting should get on Linked In at

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