Board members require effective networks and gravitas

On our third day in the Women no Boards program in Yale School Of Management, we had an opportunity to touch on useful tools when searching for a Board seat, consisting in building effective networks and positioning yourself as a thought leader. We learned how these tools can help you to connect with people, perform some indirect self-promotion and communicate and share your ideas and beliefs. We also have an enjoyable and powerful session on how to build up your gravitas and exercise our executive presence.

I liked the succession of these two sessions because it became very clear that it is not enough to have an active presence and awareness in social networks but then lack executive presence. Building effective networks may get attention to your profile and help you in your Board search but, once you get the appointment, it becomes relevant to show your gravitas during the performance of the role. Thank you to Yale Professors Zoe Chance and Grace Zandarski for sharing their knowledge with us!

We also had a fascinating class by Yale Professor Daylian Cain on how to avoid conflicts of interests and resolve ethical dilemmas on the Board room, which is an area that I particularly liked, given my Compliance corporate experience. He emphasized how the adoption of simple mathematical models for important Board decisions can help to avoid the influence of biases and stereotypes and focus the analysis on the strengths and flaws, rather than just in our personal beliefs, sometimes even unconsciously.

He recognized that these models are not perfect, especially because they depend on data inputs that may bring bias to the equation; however, it helps to create a culture where opinions are discussed openly in the Board room and Directors feel comfortable in raising objections and criticism with respect. I agree that the use of models is useful for important decisions such as the selection of a new CEO or the decision whether to approve a merger, but it is fundamentally important for them to be effective to maintain a culture of healthy and respectful discussion in the forum, let it be the Executive Management team or the Board.

To wrap up the day, we had as keynote speaker Former SEC Commissioner Kara Stein, who shared with us valuable recommendations based on her experience as a corporate lawyer and later on at Capitol Hill and the SEC. The conversation was enriched by separate – unexpected – participations, via phone, from Nancy Pfund, from DBLPartners, and Congresswoman Donna Shalala.

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