Dear reader,

Welcome to the July 2016 edition of The Director’s Dilemma.

Our case study this month looks into some mechanisms for bringing a youthful perspective into a board's operations and building strong engagement with younger club members.

I hope you will enjoy this dilemma and the three suggested responses.

To read this email in your browser, go to and click on 'read the latest issue'.

Fiona is Chairman of a community sporting club. About half the members are young adults, 14 to 17 years old, who participate keenly in competitions. The club is proud of its pipeline of junior talent and, although no Olympians have emerged from their ranks, they are inspired by their role in forming fit and healthy young people who enter tertiary education or work with a strong competitive streak and an ethos of fair play and justice.

Participation and membership among this age group seems to be stagnating and last year was the first in which the club did not have representation in all levels of local competition. Fiona spoke with some of the younger members and discovered that they felt exiled from the leadership of their own club. They wanted to have a progression from team captain roles into club committee roles and a view of the business side of the club. They felt quite strongly that the club was for children and 'old people' (over 30!) rather than for school leavers and young workers.

Fiona was intrigued. These are smart, articulate and confident people. She would love to involve them more in setting the strategy of the club and in devising competition and practice formats that would suit their preferences as a playing group. She wants them to stay engaged after they turn 18.

The board members are mostly lifelong participants in the sport and/or parents of junior players. The age demographics are bi-polar in their distribution with very few members between the ages of 18 and 35 and roughly even numbers on either side of that range. The board are all over 50; they would like to retain members as they leave school but have never been able to think of a strategy for this.

How can Fiona develop structures to allow the younger members to become more involved in running their club and developing its strategy?

Denise's Answer

The great news about Fiona's dilemma is that it seems the “missing” members aged 18 to 30 would be keen to stay involved in the club if the right form of engagement can be found.

There is a wonderful opportunity to promote the development of business and governance expertise in young people and to ensure that young adults with prior involvement in sport do not lose that involvement as they enter a new stage of their lives.

To solve her dilemma, Fiona and her board will need to address a series of both practical and positioning challenges.

As young people leave school, the structure of their lives changes; they move into jobs or to tertiary study, they build new peer groups and they may well change locations. Keen young sportsmen and women who go on to TAFE or University often join new sporting teams that align practically with their new lives.

For them to want to maintain involvement with the community club of their school days they will need to see themselves in roles that acknowledge their new seniority.

In Fiona's shoes I would seek to establish a sporting leaders program where 18-30 year olds are invited to coach, umpire and mentor the younger teams and captains.

Assuming the club supports teams participating in a number of sports, I would look at setting up code based committees to advise the board on matters affecting netball, football, cricket, basketball and so on.

I would try to identify former club members at the upper end of the target age group who have continued to play sport, perhaps captained their University or company team, or made a representative team, and consider one or two for possible appointment to the Board. At the least, I would have them back to present the end of season awards.

Members of the current board have opportunities to mentor any new younger board members and the chairs and members of the Code committees.

Over time, structures that offer a natural progression from school age team member, to junior team coach and mentor, Code committee member and chair, and member of the Club Board will emerge to encourage school leavers to continue their involvement with the club alongside their continued participation in their favourite sports.

Denise North FAICD is a non-executive director and Executive Coach. She has variously played, captained, umpired and helped govern teams in netball, tennis, cricket, soccer and water polo. She is based in Sydney, Australia

Julie’s Answer

Fiona is fortunate to have young members who wish to stay with the club. She needs to create some opportunities for them to participate fully in the governance of the club.

Age diversity, like gender diversity, requires spaces to be vacated so that more diverse directors can be appointed to them. If the board is full of life-long players and long-term members then Fiona needs to look at creating some movement through succession planning. If there is enough room on the board she can look to simply appoint a younger member to the board. If the board has no vacancies she can consider changing the constitution to require two directors under (for example) 25 years old, increasing the size, and/or implementing tenure limits.

A key to managing this change will be the development of mechanisms to recognise and celebrate the contribution of directors as they leave the board. They must be treated with respect as their support for the board and club is a valuable asset that should be protected at all costs.

People under the age of 18 cannot become directors but can be included in advisory or supervisory committees where the board retains legal responsibility for decisions. In particular giving some of the young leaders positions where they can participate in the economic management of the club will enhance their CVs, provide useful life skills, and allow some strategic/entrepreneurial input from the young demographic.

A young players committee could be a useful structure. The first item for the committee would be developing strategy for competition or participation formats that suit the lifestyles of students and young workers. Evening competitions, reserve pools and other ideas will help to retain a connection as the 'after school and Saturday' sports times become unsuited to the cohort's needs.

Change is never easy and Fiona's club needs to change if it is to continue to keep the younger participants. She needs to act quickly while the goodwill and experience of the current engaged young members is still available.

Julie Garland McLellan is a non-executive director and board consultant based in Sydney, Australia.

Roger’s Answer

This problem is not unique to this particular club. It has been solved by other similar clubs in several possible ways. The club could have a junior board of 4 or 5 members who would be elected each year. Perhaps two members of the junior board could also attend the senior board, as non-voting members and bring concerns of junior club members and of the junior board to the attention of the senior board. Among other things, this would get numerous junior members used to participating in managing and directing the club.

Alternatively, the senior board could be expanded by several members and the new seats would be exclusively for junior members who would be elected each year.

Variations on these themes are also possible.

Roger Hammock is a Company Director and advisor to private trusts. He is based in Los Angeles, USA.

Book Review - How to Handle Bedlam in the Boardroom and Boredom in the Bedroom by Jane Gunn.

How could I possibly resist a book with this title? I couldn't!

Although the author is a relationship expert and occasionally confuses board and executive roles her ability to see through the surface of the various scenarios to the human motivation and emotion that is driving the behaviour will make this book a valuable read for any director. If you have ever experienced a sudden and almost intractable difference of opinion among colleagues this book will give you the insights to uncover the wants and needs of the participants and hence the solution to the issue.

The author uses practical case studies (which of course I love) to illustrate her points and provides simple scripts for questions that will help anyone to improve their own situation.

Disagreements at work do affect happiness at home and, without actually getting into the bedroom, the author provides some tips for making sure that what happens in the boardroom stays in the boardroom.

Useful, practical and engaging.

Available at

Inspirational quote for July - This month my favourite quote is:

It is time I stepped aside for a less experienced and less able man.

~ Scott Elledge ~

We can all tell ourselves that we are the greatest. But we also should be able to tell ourselves that we have done our best and can now move on to make different contributions. The quote above was made by Scott on his retirement as a Professor at Cornell. It is one that many directors feel as we leave a board (although few of us would dare to say it).

What's new - In June I spent most of the month working from home, performing board performance reviews, writing, and developing director training materials. I did have a lovely visit to Singapore to present my 'Supporting the Board' course and celebrated yet another birthday.  I hope you all had a good month and wish you the greatest of success for July and (for Australian readers) the new financial year.

A note on names - A few readers have asked me where I find the names for the protagonists in each case study. I can only say that I 'borrow' them from people I meet or things that I read. Fiona is an old Gaelic name meaning fair, clear or white. Our protagonist will need to act decisively whilst being fair and making sure her motives are clear. It seemed like a good name for her!

This newsletter - If you have any ideas for improving the newsletter please let me know. If you are reading a forwarded copy please visit my website and sign up for your own subscription.

Suggestions for dilemmas - Thank you to all the readers who have suggested dilemmas. I will answer them all eventually.

Be a contributor - if you would like to attempt a response to the dilemmas before publication you are most welcome. I normally post the question in my LinkedIn group 'Company Directors and Governance Professionals' at the start of each month. Your comments and contributions will be most welcome. You may even get selected for publication.

Farewell until the next issue (due 1 August 2016). I look forward to greeting you again then. In the interim I hope you will enjoy health, happiness and hard work.

Enjoy governing your corporations; we are privileged to do what we do!

Best regards,




The opinions expressed above are general in nature and are designed to help you to develop your judgement as a director. They are not a definitive legal ruling. Names and some circumstances in the case study have been changed to ensure anonymity. Contributors to this newsletter comment in the context of their own jurisdiction; readers should check their local laws and regulations as they may be very different.