Monday, January 4, 2016

Book Review: Robyn Weatherley’s Eyes Wide Open



A First-Timer’s Guide to the Real World of Boards and Company Directorships

The first thing that caught my attention with this book was the cover – it captures the essence of the content – for every director we need to keep our eyes wide open! As you read through the book you realise having your eyes wide open is a great reminder for how to be an exceptional director. A term Robyn uses because she clearly understands that if we take on a director role, this aspiration should be non-negotiable. 

A quick flick through the book suggests it is easy to read, and it is. Robyn says in her opening chapter how it is important for her to share her knowledge as a conversation, and this approach really engages the reader. We are asked to read the whole book so that the conversation really takes hold once we have all the insights. 

As a learner I followed Robyn’s advice and found is very satisfying. The content is rich with very useful material, stories, latest research and is entertaining, clever and practical. It is jam packed with lots of information and is written in a style that makes it easy to understand. Robyn clearly enjoys the topic and you feel that she wants you to succeed as a director. She makes the various points with intelligence, ease and makes sure the reader understands that as directors we need to be fully committed to the role, obligations and responsibilities. 

The book is well structured - three key parts with four to five key elements:

Part One: Pre-Appointment - this section is dedicated to helping you to contemplate and investigate whether becoming a director is really a role you want. This starts with ‘Where to Begin’ - a key highlight in this section is the message of ego versus the cause/business and alignment with your own values. I was reminded to think carefully about how comfortable I would be saying I sit on the board of ‘X’. Also the question of why the board director vacancy came about.  Robyn then moves into company culture, strategy and financials. I found this section a really practical refresher. It is about research and getting a sense of the culture. This is where we are introduced to the ‘Checklists’. These are terrific practical tools that really help you learn. I liked the fact that early in the book Robyn introduces the need for directors to be able to read a set of financial statements and if you don’t then go and get some training. The reminder about de facto directors in very pertinent. Meeting the Chairman, CEO, CFO and other directors is sound advice as are the checklists, in particular the Top 10 Pre-Appointment Must-Dos. 

Part Two: Invitation Accepted - this section is about the board induction process, meetings, dos and don’ts and how to conduct yourself. Whilst it is written for the new director I think it offers some great advice for existing directors both individually and in relation to improving current practices. If you are not sure if you have everything in place for when a new directors starts, this book is a great tool. As a CEO I did laugh at the part about ‘We’re all human…’ and errors in the board packs.  Robyn’s reminder about Board Minutes is sobering.

Part Three: In the Boardroom and Beyond - we are reminded of the importance of our roles as directors, the contribution we can make and our statutory and fiduciary duty we owe to the organisation. The conversation about the importance of developing working relationships with other directors is very useful along with the need to hold all information in-confidence. As a great advocate for ongoing education and using our intuition I commend Robyn on including this in her book.
We do need to keep learning and developing ourselves. I found the book highly practical, providing relevant tips, examples and excellent checklist exercises to engage in immediate application. I firmly believe that this book will support those people seeking to become a board director and to those of us committed to becoming an exceptional director.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Book Review Dr Jenny Brockis : Future Brain

Future Brain 

Creating a habit based plan to train your brain for high performance
The first thing that caught my attention with this book was the cover – a very ingenious model with the 12 keys. As you read through the book you realise the model is a great reminder for how to create a high performance brain. A quick flick through the book suggests it is easy to read, and it is. However the content is rich with stories, the latest research and is witty and practical. It is jam packed with lots of information and is written in a style that makes it easy to understand. Dr Jenny is a natural storyteller, through the various stories she shares, she makes the points with intelligence and ease. I also really liked how Dr Jenny creates various emotions within the reader to deepen the learning for the reader and the point she is making. The images of the brain are great, not too much to make the light hearted faint! These brain images are used in a way that helps us non-medical people understand our own brain and they help the reader to comprehend the key concepts and how we can put each concept into action.
The book is well structured – three key parts of a high performance brain each with four keys:
Creating a high-performance brain - this section is dedicated to creating a high-performance brain founded on our lifestyle choices. These four keys include nutrition, exercise, sleep and stretching our mental muscle. I found this section a really practical refresher. I reflected on how I rate against these four keys and recognised the impact on my own brain performance when one or more of these are out of kilter. I think the brainy facts and research are extremely useful in reminding and reinforcing the reader why these foundational elements of brain health are so important to continually training your brain for high performance. The practical tips that are offered are very useful and we can take these tips and use them for ourselves and for our workplace. I notice I am now really encouraging staff to take regular meal and brains breaks and advocating why ‘al desko’ eating restricts our opportunity to develop working relationships with each other.
Operating a high-performance brain - this section is about Focus, Mindset, Healthy Stress and Mindfulness. It explores how to operate a high performance brain by addressing firstly how we focus. Dr Jenny uses a terrific example which is a great reminder of how we can go off on tangential diversions and never achieve what we set out to do. As a side I love to play pool and I know when I don’t narrow my attention span on the shot, I miss sinking the ball. As a leader this section was great at reinforcing the need to ‘fight for your three priorities’ each day so that 70-80% of our work day is working on our own priorities. Language does create reality and Dr Jenny demonstrates how the impact of a fixed mindset over a growth mindset can be so limiting. The section on healthy stress and Mindfulness are both so useful, rich with information about how you can support yourself, your work colleagues and family.
Integrating a high-performance brain - this section is dedicated to Change ability, Innovation, Collaboration and Leadership and brings the book together. I found this section of significant importance given the amount of change we experience and how we need to be able to adapt, change, innovate and collaborate in order the survive and thrive in a global economy. Dr Jenny continues to enlighten the reader through stories that educate, facts that support her propositions and very practical steps we can take to improve our brain and in-turn our performance.
This is much more than a book of well-expressed ideas. It is also highly practical, providing relevant tips, examples and excellent exercises for readers wishing to engage in immediate application. I firmly believe that this book will support those people committed to improving their own brain performance, the quality of their life, the workplace and business.