Introducing Simon Telfer - Another governance expert supporting the BoardPro community

4 min read
Nov 1, 2022 9:29:49 AM

BoardPro works with a diverse group of governance professionals across Australia and New Zealand. These experts are dedicated to sharing their knowledge and experiences with the the BoardPro community so that anyone can learn how to apply the fundamentals of governance - for free! BoardPro is proud to introduce Simon Telfer, a governance professional specialising in Board appointments. You may have seen Simon on a number of our ‘Governance Made Easy’ webinars, and as a recent contributor to blog articles.

Telfer is the managing director of Stimulus New Zealand, as well as the founder of Appoint Better Boards, a platform that advertises live Board vacancies to the governance community of New Zealand from the perspectives of both Boards seeking members and members looking to secure Board roles.

simon telfer

Telfer is passionate about promoting diversity in the sector, having founded two governance initiatives to help achieve this goal: the aforementioned Appoint, and the young governance group called SpringBoard, where he served as co-founder. He also worked as the independent director of BoardPro from its inception, understanding how integral our software can be for smooth management systems and painless admin within the governance sector.

He mentors on topics ranging from governance to succession, and eagerly provides career advice to willing Board members. Telfer is also a business owner and investor, having invested in some of the companies where he serves on advisory Boards. He is committed to expanding active transport initiatives in his community, taking his future-focused approach out of the Board room and beyond onto the streets. He was recently elected to the Wānaka Upper Clutha Community Board where he serves as Chair.

BoardPro spoke with Telfer about best practices for organisations navigating transitions in their futures, as well as tangible actions that Boards can take to increase their diversity and environmental awareness. With his wealth of background knowledge throughout the industry, Telfer came to us with unique insight and expertise into these pertinent issues.

Q: What steps can Boards take to ensure smooth succession?

Planning should occur a couple of years in advance of potential retirements. Don’t just recruit for the current vacancy. Instead, think about who is up for rotation next year and the year after. The Chair role is probably the most important succession issue. When recruiting any Board member ask “Does this person have leadership material? Could they Chair the Board one day?”  

It’s so much easier to transition to Chair from within the existing Board rather than appoint an external directly into the role. Creating a Deputy Chair position to act as a pathway for succession can also be very effective.

Q: What career advice can you offer to Board members starting their governance career?

Leverage your networks and ensure they see you in a governance light and not just in a management or executive context.  Develop influencers and champions to help you find your next Board role, so as not to solely rely on applying for advertised roles. Create a strong Board persona that speaks to your unique set of skills and differentiates you from others - don’t try and be all things to all people. Start your Board career before retiring from your executive career.  Not for profit or for purpose roles are a great start to your governance career – choose those that you have a deep passion for and ideally have a strong Chair. 

Rework your CV into a Board ready CV format – your executive resume won’t cut it in the governance world. Consider using my Board CV or governance career one on one service.  

Q: What key features make up a successful Board director? 

  • Strong ideas held lightly. 
  • A true focus on the interests of the organisation over and above any personal interests. 
  • Ability to identify trends and apply insights from international contexts or from other sectors.  
  • Ability to listen to and respect views from people of all backgrounds and life experiences.

Q: What challenges do Boards face when seeking to increase their diversity?

  • Understanding why they are doing it over and above simply because of stakeholder or societal expectation. 
  • Having a culture that is welcoming, safe and values different thinking. 
  • Moving on from simply making diverse appointments to genuinely including them in decision making.

Q: How can Boards work to increase diversity in their appointments and overcome said challenges?

  • Ensure that Board appointment panels themselves are diverse.  
  • Ensure the skills/competencies/experience matrix that you are hiring against is itself broad and won’t automatically result in a non-diverse appointment.  
  • Broaden their search to the likes of Appoint Better Boards rather than just asking for referrals from their own networks.

Q: How can Boards increase involvement in environmentally-friendly initiatives?

I think Boards have moved well past “environmentally friendly.”  The environment and climate are key drivers of Board strategy and risk mitigation.  Boards are starting to lead conversations in these areas, even ahead of government regulation. If this isn’t coming naturally to a Board then consider some fresh thinking being appointed.

Q: As the former independent director, and a current BoardPro partner, please share why BoardPro’s software is such a valuable tool for Boards and organisations

It’s a godsend to be able to have all the documents from across my governance portfolio located on one central platform.  As a Chair, structuring agendas, reviewing action items, getting documents signed off is really efficient … I insist on BoardPro before joining any new Boards. 

If you are looking to appoint new board members to your organisation, Telfer can help. If you are interested in securing a board role via Appoint, check out the platform here. Otherwise you can connect with Telfer here.

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