What a year! 2022 will not only be remembered as the 3rd #pandemic year in a row, but also as the year of global #polycrises, ongoing supply chain disruptions, #energy alternatives and #inflation. For the most part, companies are responding by replacing their management personnel. At the management level, we have more new board appointments – including diversity – than ever before. This also seems to be having a lasting effect on the general holding period of existing management board contracts.
In addition, new owners and investors in particular are turning the board agendas inside out. After years of growth, they are now focusing primarily on the profitability of their holdings and are hastily canceling IPOs planned with elaborate marketing campaigns in view of a poor stock market climate worldwide.
Thus the personnel merry-go-round in the executive floors turns ever faster and straight and because of the pressure of asset managers such as Blackrock, Vanguard, State Street and CO., which invest only in enterprises with a clear ESG strategy, also increasingly female high-level personnel for the executive committee are gladly sent into the turbulent waters.
So what should top female executives pay particular attention to before rashly signing a board contract?
My top 10 tips for safe onboarding and offboarding that every aspiring female executive should take to heart:
- How much real power does the boardroom have? Are there budget and headcounts that the board has autonomy over?
- What is regulated in the business distribution plan? What #competencies do the individual board members have? – Or what is always decided by the board as a whole?
- Have I met the other board members in the selection process, do I know their motives and strategic agendas, and can I win them over as my supporters?
- How united is the supervisory board in overall corporate decisions and how much trust does the board enjoy? Especially former owner-managed companies in the S-DAX often have a hard time with the board function and still treat them like executives with the result that real #action competence is only granted to a limited extent.
- Diversity is often pushed in front of us like a monstrance. The very desire for a woman on the board should make one pay attention. What is the strategic context of the appointment, what does the internal talent pipeline of female candidates look like, and are there other weighty reasons for the appointment besides the diversity issue?
- #StrongWoman – #StrongTeam. Unlike many male board colleagues, female board members in particular often do without a strong house power for their 1st board mandate. They are reluctant to follow a trusted leadership team. That this can have negative consequences is obvious. They simply lack the in-house network that makes them strong. The people who know and trust you are missing. Especially newcomers to the boardroom have to prove from day 1. They have to show that they are not only worth their compensation, but also convince the capital market and the internal teams of the success of their tasks. As a “lone wolf,” this will rarely succeed and does not show particularly great power-political instinct.
- Negative aspects of an appointment are usually unconsciously ignored. Nevertheless, it is also important to proactively address liability issues. In the run-up to an appointment, people like to refer to a D&O insurance in case of damage. However, the contents of this insurance are not readily disclosed. Many people are not aware of the fact that these are usually group policies and that the damage sum must cover the liability cases of the entire management board.
- Labor lawyers are often consulted only in the event of a separation and often only when the separation is already imminent. This is a cardinal mistake for aspiring board members. Especially when it comes to appointments to the board of directors, lawyers specializing in corporate law should be involved in advance. They can see the pitfalls of articles of association, business allocation plans and management board contracts at first glance and can provide important tips for the company’s own negotiations with the supervisory board and for possible later separation scenarios.
- Dealing with and on the board is not something you can do right away. First-time appointees often have to familiarize themselves with the routines and power relations of the board. This is a particular test of endurance, especially at the beginning. It is easier for board members who already have relevant board experience. Ideally, they have already served as managing director of a limited liability company and/or have gained initial experience as an advisory board member in a family-run company or as a supervisory board member of a listed company. Even if this board experience is not available, it helps immensely if relevant experience has already been gained in voluntary activities.
- Successful #networking is an art and belongs to the top class of successful managers. Every manager should have a resilient and trustworthy network of relationships with multipliers and supporters in the market. Journalists, strategy and personnel consultants, lawyers, auditors and other top managers can be extremely helpful as discreet advisors.
Therefore, it is important to build resilient networks at an early stage and not only to maintain them when needed. Top manager networks include : Initiative Women into Leadership – IWiL (www.iwil.eu), LeadershipNext Academy GmbH www.leadershipnext.de, FidAR Frauen in die Aufsichtsräte e.V. (www.fidar.de), Generation CEO e.V. (www.generation-ceo.com), Baden-Baden Unternehmergespräche www.bbug.de