Women on Board – Your Time is Now

Mar 6th, 2017


“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”

Vernā Myers


As International Women’s Day is celebrated across the globe on 8th March, this year’s theme #BeBoldForChange strikes a particular chord with me. I am a passionate advocate for diversity in the boardroom and the significant impact it can have on the individual, the board and business results.


Coaching women to achieve board-level success is an important part of our work at Potential Plus International. And we believe passionately that The Time is Now. As a CEO client said recently: “If ever there was a moment for women to become a board member, this is the moment. Make sure you are in the arena.”


Why now? From recent on-the-ground conversations, businesses are recognising not only the value of diverse viewpoints and a more accurate reflection of consumer profiles on their boards, but also the undeniable benefit to the bottom line.  A recent study by McKinsey, for example, showed that publicly traded European companies with gender diversity in leadership experienced higher return on equity, operating profit, and stock price. Global trends are also encouraging – 16 out of 44 countries (2016 Global Diversity Analysis) now have an average of three women on the board – the number proven as the critical mass required for sustainable impact. Progress is on track to make this the global average by 2021. There is still a huge amount of work to be done, but momentum is building and it’s not going away.


What, therefore, can you do to make sure you are in the arena?  Being excellent at your operational role rarely suffices.  What do people do that makes the difference?


They build a personal brand

Personal brand means: what do you want to be known for?  Our clients get clear about what value and uniqueness they would bring to the boardroom table – their signature. Don’t confuse personal brand with narrow specialism, however. As Nick Lovegrove explains in his latest book, The Mosaic Principle, “Businesses have so many complex, multidimensional challenges, we need people with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective to tackle them.”


A CEO client recently asked us to work with his CFO – she led the financial discussions with great competence but her board contribution went no further. Together we worked on broadening her strategic outlook. As her CEO said, “You have to excel in your own role but you also have to develop your strategic thinking outside your role.”


They connect with others and create advocates

If you are doing a great job, people need to know. You need to be out letting people know what you are doing, and you need advocates to be talking about you when you’re not in the room.


A client in the legal sector has decided to seize the potential board and non-executive opportunity. She was so busy in her job she believed she did not have time to network. She has now has identified the key relationships she needs to build and is creating both formal and informal opportunities to meet. Equally, she now says yes to speaking opportunities to raise her profile, and ensures some of the basics such as a polished Linked-In profile is complete.


They get super-organised in both business and home life

The reality is, women are still responsible for 80% of household organisation. I work with my clients to ensure they are extremely well organised in the office and at home and create structures that will enable this. This can be as simple as setting up a weekly Monday morning meeting with their PA vs adhoc conversations so they get the week planned; enrolling a personal trainer or starting the day with a simple practice of mindfulness; structuring their diaries so they block appointments and leave valuable time to reflect in environments that enable this.  The work we do also often triggers them to have a conversation with their partners about changes they can make together which can be as simple as taking the children to an event or planning a family holiday.


They manage themselves and prepare well

One of the frequent challenges that my female clients express is “their voices being heard in a room full of testerone.” We work with them to:

  1. Get clear on the why. Being clear on why this board position will be great and worthwhile for you and your family gives you motivation and drive. This positively impacts your self-assurance and enables you to exert a natural influence that is true to you.
  2. Prepare well. One very practical approach is to prepare well. Study the agenda and decide the three key messages you want to convey during the meeting. This enables you to be clear, confident, poised, focused, and better able to respond to pushback. Be prepared for the most difficult question you could be asked.
  3. Manage your impact: I ask clients: “What do you want people to say when you walk into a room and when you leave it?  Everyone is busy but rushing into a meeting looking stressed impacts your sense of gravitas. Simple strategies can impact your presence whether it be adapting your body language, arriving 15 minutes early for the pre-meeting conversation or asking your PA to allow 10 minutes between meetings.


While some of the actions may take you out of your comfort zone, in our experience, they quickly become habits. ‘Do it and it will become you’.  You can adopt new strategies and be true to your own character and values.


So I am calling all women in 2017 to #BeBoldForChange. Hold out for your career aspirations and make it happen.


Potential Plus International offers bespoke Executive and Team Coaching Programmes that are built around the goals and aspirations our clients want to achieve.

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Oona Collins