The Importance of Onboarding and How it Helps Build Connections — Susan Chapman-Hughes

Executive boards have started their long-overdue focus on diversity efforts. An unfamiliar territory to many, boards are struggling with onboarding strategies but doing their best to make the appropriate changes. I spoke with the JPM podcast ‘What’s the Deal’ on the changes in the interview and evaluation processes for boards that have come with the organization’s diversity efforts. In this part of the podcast, we discussed the importance of implementing onboarding sessions to help build positive connections and foster smooth transitions.

“From my own experience, the boards that have been the most effective have been the ones who have a deep dive with the new members explaining the business, the people, and the leaders to provide them exposure to the core elements that make up the company. Spending quality time learning who these key people are is super important but also having the lead director call you and say ‘We brought you on this board because we really want your perspective. What we don’t want you to do is to sit there and be quiet for the first three meetings. We want you to share your point of view’. The only nuance for me is that I try to not come in with predisposed notions of what’s happening and I try to ask a lot of questions, roll up my sleeves, and learn what’s happening and what’s going on. I think that boards have to be mindful and conscious of what that means.

One of the other tactics I’ve seen is having the new person come in and conduct an overall external perspectives discussion that they lead with the board to provide their input on what business trends they’ve been saying that the company should be aware of. This tends to open up the conversation for the broader board to think and ask questions to build that level of commodore.

I also think conducting one on ones with existing members of the board and new board members is extremely important so people get to establish connections. It is surprising the number of connections you have with someone once you initiate talking to them. There’s nothing that trumps a relationship — and that’s how you realize that you are willing to go to battle with them or be contrarian at times when you don’t agree.”

Susan Chapman-Hughes is a C-level executive, global speaker, and connected leader. Known as an effective change maker, she has led business turnarounds and digital transformations in various leadership and executive roles and has a distinct talent for bringing stakeholders together to develop shared winning strategies. Known for her ability to motivate and inspire large teams, she is a developer of talent who has built significant followership across many sectors. Most recently, Susan served as the Executive Vice President, Global Head of Digital Capabilities, Transformation and Operations at American Express.

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