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D100 Directors Impart Their Best Advice

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We sometimes all wish we could go back in time to advise ourselves on how to approach a new challenge or community given the knowledge and experience we have today. For the 2015 NACD Directorship 100 (D100), each honoree was asked to do just that. D100 directors were asked to provide a short, written response to this question: “What is the best advice you would give to a first-time director?” The D100 editorial team received responses from most honorees and they ranged from pithy maxims to stories about the challenges of staying independent.

A portion of the responses from the Class of 2015 D100 directors follows. Profiles of D100 honorees can be found in the November/December issue of NACD Directorship magazine.


Gary AndersonGary E. Anderson

Chemical Financial Corp., Eastman Chemical Co.

“I found that the best way to [contribute] was to frame appropriate questions dealing with the topic at hand. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, whether on corporate strategy, short-term tactics, succession planning, compensation, or risk management. The use of appropriate questioning also can work at home with the family!”

 

 

Veronica BigginsVeronica Biggins

Avnet, Southwest Airlines

“I fully embrace the Southwest Airlines and Avnet way of doing business: treat your people well and they will be equipped and motivated to treat your customers extraordinarily well, and that will produce distinguished rewards for your shareholders. Everyone is important, in every nook and cranny of the business, and every decision at the board level should involve the question, ‘How will this affect our people, our principles, and our culture?’”

 

Paula H. J. Cholmondeley

Dentsply Intl., Nationwide Mutual Funds, Terex Corp.

  • “Know your shareholders. What are their expectations? Is the company meeting them?
  • “Know your colleagues. Diversity of views, backgrounds, and experience enriches the company bottom line. Learn where your colleague’s views differ from yours. Understand why. Have courage and join them in candid discussion.
  • “Know your management team. Do they live their values? Are they delivering results?
  • Be involved in NACD, as governance is a learned skill and doing it right keeps our private enterprise system strong.”

 

Betsy HoldenBetsy D. Holden

Diageo PLC, Time Inc., Western Union Co.

“The best advice that I received as a new director was, first of all, choose wisely. Select an industry and company that you are really interested in, a management team that you believe in, and a board where your skills and experiences are relevant and will add value.

“Secondly, what really differentiates the best directors is how they interact with management and the other directors. Good directors are confident and courageous, and challenge management in a positive, constructive way…They understand that chemistry is the intangible that drives board effectiveness and they really listen to and treat other directors with respect.”

 

Nancy KarchNancy J. Karch

Genworth Financial, Kate Spade & Co., Kimberly- Clark Corp., MasterCard

“Some of the best advice I received as a new director was to accept that this role is different than anything I had ever done, and to have patience to learn the ropes. [A director] is an advisor, a member of a peer team, a leader on governance matters, a decision maker on some matters—[it’s] a mix unlike anything else. Plus, as in any job change, one is entering a new culture, and in the case of a board, both a company and a board culture. So be patient.”

 

Tim ManganelloTimothy Manganello

Bemis Co., Delphi Automotive

“The best advice I received was pertinent to me both as a director and as a chair/CEO. That is: ‘Tim, be yourself, remember that is what got you here.’ [That advice] caused me to think about hard work, integrity, ethics, and striving to make the proper decisions.

“It also reminded me that as my career evolved from working summer jobs in automotive plants to the boardroom of BorgWarner, I listened to, learned from, and developed relationships with people from all levels of society. This has become a valuable tool in the boardroom. Each time ‘a sticky issue’ is discussed, I remember to think back to my previous experiences and express what I think is the proper approach.”

 

Sarah RaissSarah E. Raiss

Canadian Oil Sands, Commercial Metals Co., Loblaw Cos., Vermillion Energy

“The best advice I received came from a very seasoned director. He said that I should find a person or two on the board that I could best relate to and either ask them to be my ‘board buddy’ or just make them my ‘board buddy’ without even asking. This person would help me understand current board dynamics, help me understand the history as necessary, and provide feedback on the value I brought to the board. I have used this technique on every board to which I am appointed, [and it] has allowed me to be more productive and a valuable contributor more quickly. I am most appreciative of my ‘buddies.’”

 

Ronna RomneyRonna Romney

Molina Healthcare, Park Ohio Holdings Corp.

“Three people gave me great advice when I decided to accept board positions at Molina Healthcare and Park Ohio. The first was Mary Molina, the company’s chair. It was simple but profound: ‘Remember the mission. It is the cornerstone of our corporate culture.’

“The second came from Ed Crawford, chair and CEO of Park Ohio. He said, ‘Act with integrity at all times and have the courage to do the right thing.’

“The third was from my husband, Bruce Kulp, former general counsel of Ford Europe. He counseled me to listen, get as much information as possible, trust in the power of common sense, and to always think strategically.

“Lastly, the people you deal with in management and the board are human. They have families. They have good days and bad days. Kindness is powerful, even in the boardroom.”

 

Olympia SnoweOlympia J. Snowe

Aetna, T. Rowe Price Group

“One of the key components of executing critical judgment is ensuring an ongoing evaluation of how the company’s short term goals enhance its strategy for creating long-term value. That requires early and extensive director engagement in the shaping of the strategy, greater understanding and knowledge of business operations, and constant assessment and management of the risk.

“In this era of deeper investor involvement, it is more essential than ever for boards to communicate to shareholders the extent to which the independent directors are vigorously exercising their due diligence towards maximizing the value of the enterprise.”

 

Ron SugarRonald D. Sugar

Air Lease Corp., Amgen, Apple, Chevron Corp.

“Select your boards carefully…You should be mindful of geography, meeting schedules, and be prepared to put in whatever time is necessary. And when trouble comes, you must be committed to see things through—whatever it takes.

“In well-run companies, board meetings enter a predictable rhythm, and are fairly routine. It has been said that in routine times, the quality of a board doesn’t really matter—until suddenly those moments when it matters enormously. Such ‘moments’ might include a significant market shift, a technology disruption, a planned (or unplanned) management succession, a serious regulatory or litigation threat, an environmental or safety crisis, a significant acquisition, a hedge fund activist campaign, or a hostile takeover attempt. In those moments, the board’s collective wisdom, perspective, and mature judgement can make—or break—a company.”

 

Dave WilsonDavid A. Wilson

Barnes & Noble Education, CoreSite Realty Corp.

“The best advice came from the counsel I engaged for [a] special committee. He noted the fiduciary duties of directors formed a foundation but not the entire structure. The greatest challenge I will ever confront as an independent director, he said, is ‘independence.’ He was speaking not of the independence necessary to meet SEC and NYSE thresholds. Rather, he spoke of the independence of mind, thought and action.

“What our attorney never told me was how challenging it may be to hold fast when you are in the minority, but how critical it is to our governance system that you do.

“Polonius may have been a pompous fool, but I still find value in these words: ‘This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.’—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1 Scene III.’”


Review the full list of D100 honorees at NACDonline.org/Magazine, and take a few moments to consider who you might nominate for inclusion in our tenth anniversary list. A call for nominees will be issued to all NACD members in early 2016.

The Connected Boardroom

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A couple of NACD’s members recently attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and have blogged their reports from the future for the information of the director community. First: Fay Feeney from NACD’s Southern California chapter.

I just got back from my first visit to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. As much as I enjoyed the first look at the gadgets, my attention was on the CEOs who spoke about this $186 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. When I listen to a CEO, my focus goes to the support, guidance and contributions coming from the board chair and directors.

It was a great experience, with a very special invite from Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher of AllThingsD to attend the Wall Street Journal Digital @ CES session. As a Twitter user, hearing about their business strategy from the CEO, Dick Costolo, was a treat.

I also attended a CEO/chairman session with Jeffrey Immelt, CEO and chairman, GE; John Chambers, chairman and CEO, Cisco; and Ursula Burns, chairman and CEO, Xerox. They gave me a new appreciation for the challenges of leading a global company headquartered in the U.S. The overall mood was optimistic, yet with concern about the need for infrastructure investments to support the future. They are selling to global markets and made it clear that the U.S. opportunities are 300 million people vs. the projected 7 billion worldwide.

 The CES highlighted some key trends in the developing electronics industry:

1. Disruption and invading rivals’ turf. Tearing down walls between industries and platforms was the focusSteve Ballmer, CEO at Microsoft, started his CES keynote with an example about creating a future version of Windows that runs on both Intel-compatible x86 chips as well as ARM-based processors being developed by Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and NVIDIA.

Then Samsung announced a deal with Comcast and Time Warner Cable to put their programs on Samsung’s TVs and other gadgets. This web-based content allows Samsung to provide the cable companies a way to break out of their geographic territories. This kind of deal liberates content, breaking down artificial barriers.

2. 4G and Smartphones arrive. Fast connections are here which make mobile devices work anywhere. Verizon 4G service will cover 100 markets with more than 175 million people by the end of 2011. Lowell McAdam, Verizon CEO, said that faster broadband will spur innovation and create jobs for those who exploit the networks.

3. Tablets and mobile are here to stay. The Motorola Xoom was one of the most impressive among the 80-plus models of tablets that were at the show. Motorola is reportedly aiming to sell one million Xoom tablets in the first quarter of 2011.

4. Glasses free 3D. These still have a way to go to get past the hype. Lots of 3D TVs and content filled the halls.

5. Motion controls move to the PC and beyond. Microsoft Kinect shipped more than 8 million units in 60 days, proving that Xbox 360 gamers want motion control. That quite possibly makes Kinect the most popular consumer electronics gadget in history.

So what can a boardroom do to keep up with these trends?

I believe the time is now to embrace these trends for your business. The time is right for chairmen to explore how the connected, social movement of customers is impacting their boardroom and business. It is becoming a 2011 imperative for business strategy.

Social networks are changing the world, with a mission to empower people by giving them a broadcast platform. They are constructed to make people more powerful, have more control and be more aware. Social networks have given individuals the ability to express their views to friends and the world.

During the session, Kara Swisher asked Twitter CEO Dick Costolo to give us the company’s vision and goal, in light of their recent growth and investments. Twitter Inc. gained more than 100 million registered members this year and approaches the new year with a fresh investment of $200 million. Now it must prove it can live up to its newly elevated valuation of $3.7 billion.

Costolo said that “40% of all tweets come from mobile devices. This is another way of demonstrating mobile’s increasing importance to the social media company. This is up from around 20% to 25% a year ago.”

When I speak with directors about using Twitter as a source of board information, I still get a nervous laugh. Now that I know Twitter’s business strategy I hope we can have a conversation on how it can be used as an independent listening channel for a brand.

 “We want to instantly connect people everywhere to what’s most important to them,” he said. He expanded on that by saying Twitter is about connecting for a purpose, not just connecting. Some people use Twitter just to keep up with their friends or interests; others use it as their daily source of news.

The new vision falls in line with Twitter’s re-branding as an information network. It isn’t focused on just social connections but rather on connections between “tweeters” and relevant information, whether that information is from a company, a celebrity or a close friend.

My time at CES strengthened my belief that chairmen who are interested in seeing their boardrooms adapt to this new transparent, engaged business environment will be rewarded. I leave you with a question for 2011: How will your board confront this world changing movement?

Fay Feeney, CEO at Risk for Good (www.riskforgood.com), helps corporate board chairmen monitor, leverage and govern the fast moving landscape of social media and the internet. The impact of this movement is changing business strategy. We apply our expertise in risk management to help corporate boards and CEOs survive and thrive in this digital landscape.