Womenwork organised the 1st session in the “Experts In Residence series ” graced by the phenomenal Susan Mudhune! The sessions aim was to enable any lady executive who is looking to take the next step in their career journey into corporate boards to become board-ready.
Susan Mudhune is a former Chair of the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group and also served on the board of Safaricom. She currently serves on the boards of Sanlam Kenya, Carbacid and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). She is a fellow of the Kenya Institute of Bankers (KIB) and is, besides chair of the KIFFWA Fund, the National Chairperson of the Kenya Girl Guides Association (KGGA)
Below are some gems I learnt from the session:
Preparation Before joining:
Before joining any board, ask questions about the company’s performance, and governance structures.
When asked to join any board, evaluate if it’s in an industry you are conversant with. You are able to bring value as a board member when you understand the industry in which it operates.
Network with peers who are on boards. This is essential as sometimes when boards recruit, they invite exemplary individuals who they have worked with previously.
There are no barriers to entry. Your level of experience, mastery of ethos, and managerial experience are critical but not compulsory. You can start with small institutions and grow from there.
Being a board member is very involving. A lot of preparation is done prior to meetings. And depending on the lifecycle with which the firm is at, a lot of work can be in terms of guiding on implementation on certain projects. So choose wisely. And do not be in too many boards, it hinders your effectiveness in the delivery of your day to day roles.
Do tell acquaintances and peers of influence that you would like to be a board member. And when you need help, ask for it guilt-free.
Once you become a board member, prepare adequately for meetings and do a lot of research beforehand. This will enable you to participate in the meetings. Boards are liable for decisions made, so ensure your voice is heard. Stand by the right decision, which is not necessarily the popular decision.
Some board issues can be very complex. Research, follow up with management teams, and go through documents and lastly verify the information in the reports. This will empower your understanding and hence decision making.
People dynamics in each organisation are different. You have to learn how to deal with different facets of the dynamics.
Different sectors experience different dynamics. Sometimes, private sector boards have a lot of manipulation from the owner. While the Public sector is structured on corporate governance it’s sometimes not implemented in full.
Boards make final decisions. Depending on the designation (Executive or non-executive) you are legally and financially liable for the decisions you make. Act accordingly.
After joining a board, some organisations have in-house orientation programs, some don’t. In case they don’t have, play catch up.
CMA has tenure recommendation which should be a maximum of 9years. Anyone can leave before their tenure expires.
Board performance is sometimes conducted by consultants or by peer board members from different institutions.
Advice to business owners:
As a business owner who would like to constitute a board, create a sustainability formula, evaluate what kind of skills and experience you would need and recruit.
Ensure you have a diverse team of members and also onboard people who bring non-financial investment such as value addition experience.
If you are looking for investment, ask about the investor from the companies that they have invested prior. This will enable you to learn about the decision making and corporate governance structure. The aim is to look for any key beneficial practices, and also any bad trends that could be avoided.