Direct Investments

Chair Summit 2021

8th April, 2021

This year we moved to a virtual world for our Chair Summit that took place over two days on the 9th and 10th March 2021. It warrants a thank you to all of you that attended, because it was a long session on Zoom staring at computer screens, moving from breakout room to breakout room, remembering to use the ‘hands up’ function and not the ‘laughing face’ emoji… BUT it worked! That said, here’s to the next time when we can all be together in a conference room sharing more conversation.

Notwithstanding the remote element, the presenters brought the same level of energy and debate to both days of the summit. They presented and moderated incredibly insightful discussions, which generated collective thinking that has been fully appreciated by all delegates if the survey results are anything to go by.

Mike Hicks kicked off with a plenary presentation, People and Performance; Taking management to new levels. Mike addressed the necessary changing dynamics that COVID-19, lockdown, the new way of working and the societal drivers are imposing on businesses and their management teams. From difficult conversations with founders that need to let go of the reins to readdressing a shifting management skillset. The discussions evolved around the two scenarios. The first, supporting a first-time CEO leading a management team, where there are undefined relationships, underdeveloped skills and lack of accountability, the second was in pursuit of a more effective top team. Both discussions brought a depth of thinking and consideration from the cohort that reflected the vast experience of Mercia’s NXDs, and highlighted the prevalence of these board issues in the current environment.

A central theme for the solutions in both scenarios was mutual appreciation, a topic that Mike has expanded on at length in his paper Seven Sins.[Email lisa.ward@mercia.co.uk to email request a copy]

In the Chair’s Choice, Patrick Dunne brought the delegates back to the afternoon session to address two key subjects; the board’s role in managing stakeholders from a value creation perspective, and how to manage the power differential to build successful corporate partnerships.

Without doubt, the winning companies post-COVID-19 were those that excelled at communication, employee welfare and agility. Patrick walked the delegates through a practical framework, developed by Cranfield University, that Boards are able to adopt to align the board and executive strategy towards their key stakeholders. Critical to its success, is to understand at a granular level how to align each group’s needs and wants, recognising that different stakeholders often want different things.

Patrick is renowned for his stakeholder engagement, having recognised it as a key driver of value creation at an early stage of his career at 3i. This approach was further expounded on through strategic partnerships that he designed and deployed to great success.

Delegates at this session were able to apply Patrick’s principles during two discussions. These were centered on stakeholder management and developing a KPI framework to measure the performance and sustainability of corporate partnerships, with a view to help manage any power differential that would detract from the opportunities these partnerships foster.

Put on your red shoes…

…and live your best life. Lonnie Mayne, who was our final summit speaker, is the founder and CEO of Red Shoes Living. The business or rather concept of Red Shoes Living is, according to Lonnie, is an adaptable philosophy and practical framework that demonstrates how businesses can build a culture through engaged employees and customer-focused experiences to unlock phenomenal results. This session was to introduce Lonnie and Red Shoes Living to the NXDs within the context of the summit’s themes around stakeholder engagement, aligned management and responsibility. The main tenet of Lonnie’s philosophy is accountability: “Bringing everyone to the table, holding others accountable to the best versions of themselves, and treating every one interaction as an opportunity to stand out like a pair of red shoes.

He strives to empower all stakeholders in a business to elevate the things they care about most, such as work, family, friends, health and community. The five-step process for implementing the Red Shoes Living mindset is: leadership, culture and customer experience – perpetual model – all behaviour support mission, vision and values of a company:

  1. Awareness: Heighten your awareness of what is happening within the teams you work with. Understanding what is important personally and professionally to someone can help us to inspire, motivate and support their individual performance.
  2. Gratitude: Be grateful for what we do and where we live. A survey of business leaders showed that the number one attribute of successful people was gratitude.
  3. Everyone has a story: Understand someone’s story to see how you can unlock their potential
  4. Respect and Kindness: Return a call or an email straight away. Little details matter.
  5. Put yourself out there! Ask the hard questions, step into challenges, take the opportunities  and stand out for the positive to keep progressing.

Lonnie concluded his presentation by sharing a quote his grandmother would bestow upon him as a child: “Treat those who have more than you as equals, and those who have less as Kings and Queens”, which we thought was a great message on which to conclude the entire summit.

You can find out more about Lonnie and Red Shoes Living on his website and of course his book here

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