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.

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