“From the first board meeting, the other directors treated me as if I had been there for years. The expectation was that I would be contributing as an equal, and I was treated as an equal,” says Sheridan.
Designed to develop the next generation of directors, the Future Directors programme invites selected candidates to sit on the board of a New Zealand company and participate in all board matters. However, they are not permitted to vote.
Sheridan had some experience of boards, “but mainly as an officer reporting to a board”.
Her induction onto the board was exactly the same as if she were a new director. “I was introduced to the executive team and given a thorough induction to all the workings of the airport. I was given lots of research, a full agenda and previous board papers to review in preparation for strategic planning."
In order to get the most out of the opportunity, she put in intense preparation – something that she would definitely recommend to anyone else on the Future Director programme. And she notes that the directors on the board were also clearly well-prepped before each meeting.
“They may only get together once a month but they put in a tremendous amount of work beforehand. There’s real depth of knowledge there, they are heavily involved in the detail. It’s definitely a function of it being an NZX Top 5 listed company as well as a sense of meeting their obligations as a director.”
She also took away some insights into the workings of an effective board. “Watching a chair encourage richness and rigour into conversation and a consensus without domination was invaluable. Creating an environment where the directors respect each other and interact with each other in a constructive way is very important. I learned that it’s easier to get people to play to their strengths rather than expect them to be experts in all things.”
The Future Director programme is a two-way street. It’s expected that the board will also benefit from a different perspective. What does Sheridan think she contributed? “I brought a passion for safety as I’ve been heavily involved in that through my work in the energy sector. And I think I could contribute a little bit of richness to conversations around technology. In some areas, I think I could perhaps add a younger view on things.”
The experience of “being the apprentice to the masters”, she believes, will help her in her quest for a governance position.
“My network has extended now, the mentoring from directors on the board was invaluable, and I think having had the experience, I now know so much more.”
Sheridan Broadbent is the General Manager, Strategy and Business Technology at Genesis Energy, previously she was the General Manager, People and Transformation.
Her career includes general manager roles in the Downer Group in New Zealand and Australia. She holds a BCom in Marketing from the University of Auckland and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Programme.
For more information on applying to be a candidate or becoming a host board, visit futuredirectors.co.nz