Henri Eliot’s advice for aspiring directors

08 July 2014

The University of Auckland MBA Alumni Club (AMBAAC) recently hosted Henri Eliot, the CEO of Board Dynamics, for a two-part Governance Masterclass.

For ten years, Henri’s consultancy Board Dynamics has provided customised strategic advice to directors and boards throughout New Zealand. Henri is a regular contributor to a number of publications including The New Zealand HeraldNational Business Review and the Sunday Star-Times, and with an MBA from the University of Richmond, he was well matched to engage with a mixed cohort of University of Auckland MBA Alumni.

The AMBAAC Governance Masterclass was based on three areas – board establishment, evaluation and development. Over two evening sessions, Henri guided the participants through the most pressing challenges facing the boards of our organisations today including cyber security and risk mitigation, health and safety governance, and strategic approaches to using social media at board level.

Masterclass participants reviewed and discussed a recent case study and were encouraged to share personal experiences from the boardroom. Fielding many questions from the floor, Henri provided answers that were equally relevant to those present that currently held directorships and as well those with boardroom aspirations.

What advice does Henri have for aspiring directors?

  • Audit your skills – know yourself. What can you bring to a board? Diversity of gender, age, ethnicity and experience will be critical for boards in the future. Today, more and more boards are seeking members with experience relating to IT, marketing, health and safety, social media, in addition to traditional legal and accountancy skills.
  • Speak with someone already on a board about their experience. Being a director may sound reasonably glamorous but there are huge liabilities at stake in relation to financial risk and personal reputation which must be considered prior to accepting a role on a board.
  • Start small – develop your governance skills on a voluntary board in your community. Ensure your undertake due diligence about an organisation, its board and its members and most importantly be passionate about the organisation.
  • The New Zealand Institute of Directors and Australian Institute of Company Directors are useful courses but will not necessarily mean automatic entry onto a board.
  • Once appointed to a board, keep upskilling, continue to develop your understanding of the business, the markets in which they operate and their competitors.

The AMBAAC Masterclass series is exclusively open to University of Auckland MBA Alumni Club (AMBAAC) members. Formed in 2012, the AMBAAC is based on three objectives:

  • Continuously challenge our thinking
  • Build powerful networks
  • Contribute to the growth of the New Zealand economy