Joelle Warren, Executive Chair at Warren Partners has provided CEO Today with top tips for aspiring senior executives on how to gear up for and secure their first Chair role. Let’s jump straight in.
- Get onto the first rung of the ladder. Don’t worry about where you start – this is about getting hands-on experience and understanding the skills that you’ll need. For your first Chair role, it may well be easier to start with chairing a charity or an association or a public sector body.
- Get the inside track on how investors operate A good way to do this is to get some City experience. Investors, shareholders, fund managers and compliance managers are all key stakeholders. Understand their world and the ins and outs of being a listed business and the sort of politics you are likely to face.
- Network, network, network. Raise your profile wherever and whenever you can and don’t stop just because you have found a new role. This is a long-term game based on developing senior level connections, so invest in developing high quality relationships.
- Share your passion and enthusiasm Whether it’s attending networking events, being active on social media or writing articles, don’t be afraid to express your opinion the issues of the day that matter to Boards. Market yourself at events; raise your profile through speaking engagements; build your reputation with the relevant stakeholders.
- Learn from Old Hands – Invest in finding an executive chair who can coach or mentor you and can share the wealth of their experience and help to guide you into a new role. An executive coach can help with your first Chair role and you can also ask for guidance from the search firm that made the placement.
- Get to grips with compliance issues. Today’s Chairs spend an increasing amount of time on compliance issues, so it’s important that you know your compliance back to front. There are also specialist publications like Governance magazine which have regular up-dates and discussions on key issues.
- Take Stock – Do you have what it takes at an interpersonal level? Listening skills, patience and the ability to process different views and to facilitate discussion and manage committee meetings are key attributes for being an effective Chair. Are you hungry to learn and to continuously learn and develop?
- Can you take the spotlight? – a Chair role is not for shrinking violets. It requires grit, determination and resilience as well as an aptitude fast-thinking and agility. This is especially true if a business is going through tough times.