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Warwick Tauwhare-George: Comfortable in being vulnerable

Feb 22 2019

Spotlight: Inspiring Directors

Warwick Tauwhare-George

If you ask Warwick Tauwhare-George CMInstD, being comfortable in being vulnerable is a skill directors need given the changing and increasingly more challenging governance landscape. It’s also a principle he has lived by throughout his life. Warwick, who recently became a Chartered Member of the Institute of Directors, is an accomplished director and sits on the boards of organisations covering a range of industries. He shared with us his thoughts on governance, his passions, and what he likes best about being a member of the Institute.

1. Tell us something about yourself, your background, etc.

I am the CEO of Parininihi ki Waitotara, a Taranaki-based Māori company with $400M in assets and looking after the interests of over 10,000 shareholders.  I am passionate about creating pathways to progress for our young rangatahi (youth), as well as ensuring I am a responsible kaitiaki (guardian) of the Taiao (environment) for our future generations. I sit on the boards of Port Nicholson Fisheries, Ngai Tahu Farming and Ngamotu Hotels.  I have been involved in the agribusiness, seafood, property, engineering, construction and asset management sectors. I spent 10 years living and working in the in Middle East.  I’m a qualified engineer and quantity surveyor. I have undergraduate degrees in accounting and commercial law from Victoria University as well as an MBA from the University of Wollongong, specialising in finance and marketing.

2. What’s the most challenging governance experience you’ve had, how you dealt with it, and what you learned from it? 

Because we have two degrees of separation in NZ, it’s easy to be in a situation where there will be a conflict of interest.  I have learned that in such situations, the Chair plays a key role to ensure any such conflict is managed in an appropriate manner based on the board charter.  Board culture around this issue is important. Directors also play a part in ensuring such conflicts of interest are dealt with for the benefit of the shareholders.

3. What skills do you think will become even more important for directors given the changing context of governance?

I have a strong conviction that in today’s business landscape, directors need high levels of emotional intelligence and of self-awareness. Directors need to be comfortable in being vulnerable in terms of not always having the answers. The ability and willingness to acknowledge change is important.  The speed of change in business these days means that if you are not comfortable with change, then best to ‘get off the bus’ so to speak. For example, climate change. Accepting and understanding that climate change is a challenge facing our present and future generations and therefore is a great risk to business sustainability.  My observation is that presently in New Zealand, we are doing a lot of talking about climate change, but I’m not convinced businesses have the courage to make real, long-term change. Finally, the willingness to be curious. Curiosity enhances awareness which helps directors become better and well-informed.

4. What is your governance philosophy?

Staying focused on adding value to the business and enjoying the company of those around the board table.  From my perspective, it’s important to enjoy what you are doing.  If you’re not, what’s the point?

5. What are you passionate about outside your governance work? (hobbies, interest)

This will sound cliché but my great passion is my family — my wife and three daughters.  I’m extremely busy but I make sure I spend as much time as possible with my whanau. This is central to everything I do. In terms of hobbies, I’m a bit of a fitness fanatic and enjoy pushing myself.  With regards to interests, when I was a young fella (which was a long time ago) while on a trip around the United States, I saw Joe Montana and Jerry Rice from the San Francisco 49ers in LA.  That was a major buzz, and ever since then I have been a massive supporter of the 49ers and American football.

6. What do you enjoy most about being a member of IoD?

The opportunity to network with like-minded colleagues and observe how real leaders operate.

7. Why did you want to be a Chartered Member of the Institute?​

To continue to grow both as a person and Director.  It shows commitment to your shareholders and respect for their interests. It’s important to continually strive to improve yourself.

8. How do you measure your success as a director?

For me, it’s probably those moments when we do some self-reflecting and you know that you have tried your best to do the right thing.

9. Who/What inspires you?

My greatest inspiration are my 3 daughters, because they are such great fun to be with.

10. What’s the best advice you’ve received as a director?

Never be afraid to ask a question if something isn’t clear to you.  It’s your fiduciary obligation to protect shareholder and stakeholder interests.  If you don’t understand something and don’t seek clarity so that you can make an informed decision, then you’re not adding value and perhaps it’s time to evaluate why you’re involved.