Eyes Wide Open; a first timer's guide to the real world of boards and company directorship
by Robyn Weatherley
Published: Australia, June 2015
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*
Directorship is still a 'black art' in that few people who are not directors are able to state with any great confidence exactly what it is that directors do. Robyn has spent many years in and around boardrooms and is able to shed some light on the topic.
This book straddles the boundary between advising directors on how to evaluate a potential board seat and how to perform once they have accepted an offer. It does not go into any detail on how to find director opportunities or how to turn opportunities into offers to join boards1. However, if you have been given an opportunity or are working towards being given one this book is a practical guide to the steps that a director should take pre and post appointment to gain a better than normal chance of success.
I had the great pleasure of briefly meeting the author during her involvement with the AICD NAB Board Ready Program. In this book she synthesises much information from that elite program and extends it with the benefit of her own experience inside real world boardrooms. The best aspect of this book is the refreshingly simple conversational prose. It really does feel like a fireside chat. A very valuable and purposeful chat; a comfortable and enjoyable one also. I loved the analogy of new directors to joining a new herd (getting ones toes stomped upon by elephants if one were not careful).
The commentary is unashamedly based on Australian experiences, legislation and recent court cases (although Enron does get a mention). The advice is practical and pragmatic and covers issues such as how, and when, to 'drop in' to the company premises, protocols for dialling in to a remote board meeting, absences and early leave, etc.
The section on different types of board director (think 'worry wart', 'police officer', and 'late lobber') is a PR agent's dream and I look forward to seeing it regurgitated in magazine article format from time to time. Beyond identifying - with honesty, accuracy and good humour - these traits which we all exhibit to some extent under the right circumstances, Robyn explains how to recognise and manage the behaviours and become, as we all aspire to become, an exemplary director.
I found the book an enjoyable read for an experienced director and a recommended read for all who wish to become more experienced than they currently are. It is worth noting that the humour is always gentle and inclusive. There are no put downs, no sarcastic asides and no grandstand statements; just honest appreciation of the difficulties of being a director, especially in a new or rapidly changing environment. The book, like all good board members, is positive, practical and well worth the investment.
1. If you want information on how to generate and convert opportunities check out my review of David Schwarz' book Board Appointments
* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of "Dilemmas, Dilemmas: Practical Case Studies for Company Directors", Dilemmas, Dilemmas II: More Practical Case Studies for Company Directors (Volume 2), "The Director's Dilemma", "Presenting to Boards", "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.