Getting On Board - Susan Chapman-Hughes

Photo by Damir Kopezhanov on Unsplash

Executive boards have started their long overdue focus on diversity efforts. An unfamiliar territory to many, boards are struggling with on-boarding strategies but doing their best to make the appropriate changes. I spoke with the JPM podcast ‘What’s the Deal’ on the changes in the interview and evaluation processes for boards that have come with organization’s diversity efforts.

“I’ve had some friends who have recently gone through the process of board evaluations processes because boards have finally woken up and realized that they need diversity. They’ve called me and said that they were some of the most awkward conversations they’ve had in their lives, and they asked me if that was normal. I tell them that that means that board doesn’t really know how to manage and handle you through the process and that you should be trying them on just as much as they are trying you on.

“I think that is one thing that has changed is that people do have options and they are going to be very discerning about where they want to go. Unlike years ago where they were just so happy to be on a board, they’re not going to do that anymore.

“There are other things that are changing, some of the search consultants are being more creative about how they coach and present people through the process. But the other thing that I think is changing is that there are so many more organizations that are out there doing prep for people who want to be on boards to help them get up to speed and understand what’s required to go through the process. Candidates are likely more prepared than they could have been in the past to go through the process.

“I always tell people there are a few specific things that I look for:

Is it a company that is doing something that you are very passionate about or really want to learn about?

“You’re going to be spending a lot of time in that business and if you’re not interested in that business, it’s going to be a slug for you and them, but that will come out through the process.

Do you respect the values of the company and the peopled that you are going to be spending time with on the board in the leadership team?

“ Its really important for you to ask tough questions of the board members, the non gov committee, and others that you meet. Ask people such as the CEO about their values, how they’re thinking about the business and what that looks like in how they will move forward.

How is it going to fit into your life?

“This is the most tactical question, as it could be an amazing board but not fit in with your life. They could be in California while you’re in New York where they have 4 meetings a year and each meeting you have to be on a plane for several days, that’s hard. I think some of that is changing somewhat with the pandemic’s hybrid models but I think it still has lots of opportunity to evolve.”

About Susan: Susan Chapman-Hughes is a connected leader with experience in several industries. As a growth strategist, she transforms traditional businesses into modernized digital models through driving engagement in various sectors and implementing revolutionary expansion strategies. Her interpersonal skills and relatable personality have allowed her to easily build trust and offer a people-centered approach to inclusive, empowering, and energizing leadership. She currently serves as an independent board director for Toast, Inc. and The J.M. Smucker Co.

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