BE A BETTER DIRECTOR: What I wish I knew before my first board appointment

AICD‘Be a Better Director’ is brought to you by the Australian Institute of Company Directors, an internationally-recognised organisation dedicated to directors. With over 35,000 members, AICD’s activities include education, development programs, publications on directors’ and governance issues, and promoting matters of interest to directors. Members range from directors of ASX-listed companies to not-for-profit organisations, family and private companies and entrepreneurial ventures.
Know when to speak, and when to listen. Board table photo: Shutterstock

Previous articles in this series have looked at a range of challenges that company directors in Australia’s modern business environment must rise to meet, from the legal obligations of board members to the requisite skill set for the top level of corporate governance.

Like all business encounters, however, board meetings themselves require preparation. For first-time directors, the experience can be more daunting than it needs to be. There are a few secrets to handling the board meeting – and being a member of a board in general – which some veteran directors have shared with Business Insider, including what they wish someone had told them before they sat down for their first board gathering.

Catherine Brenner is currently a non-executive director, or NED for short, at Australian blue-chip companies Coca-Cola Amatil, Boral, and AMP. She said the one thing she wished she was armed with before she took on her first appointment was knowing when to speak up, and when to listen.

“It is not about how much you say, having the answers or trying to showcase to the others that you possess the experience or skills to be a NED. You are there on your merits, because you deserve to be there. It is about asking a select few thoughtful, value-adding, well-timed questions about the matters at hand,” she said.

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