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Final call for boarding

Written by: Tim Hartley, Head of Odgers Berndtson's UK Real Estate Practice
Published on: 18 Jul 2016

WIPG - Article 13 (Header Image)

Looking to make it to the top? Follow these simple rules to ensure you are boardroom ready.

WIPG - Article 13 (Author)Whether it’s a nimble and dynamic private equity house, a major global services firm or a listed REIT, property businesses have the pick of talent when recruiting to their boards. How do some bright and capable real estate professionals make it to the very top and why do some fall by the wayside?

More importantly, how do you give yourself the very best chance of joining those shaping and leading the industry at the boardroom table?

Today’s property company leader is hugely well rounded: commercially capable, financially literate, international, and personally engaging. She has gravitas, understands placemaking, politics, stakeholders and the changing nature of the industry. She is quick to recognise new consumer trends, she understands shifting global markets and is “tech native” – intuitively appreciating the impact of technology and innovation. And yes, increasingly, she is a woman.

WIPG - Article 13 (People)

Property companies still have a long way to go before they can boast of the diverse boards that other sectors have enjoyed for years. But attracting people with different backgrounds, with different perspectives who are able to challenge received wisdom is mission-critical for the industry. Someone once told me that there are three things that a person needs in equal measure to succeed.

First, be talented and hard working. Set yourself high standards, over-deliver on projects. Delight clients and be the person whom your colleagues choose to work with. Develop a reputation for delivering on time. Always return the phone call. Be indispensable and the go-to person when something complicated has to be completed to a deadline. Always be available to take on valuable and difficult work – ideally the work that others see as being too hard. High-quality work will always be valued, as will those people who produce it. Continuously improve yourself – innovate, try things, fail, keep going.

Second, find mentors and sponsors. Recruit people who will advocate on your behalf, support you, open doors for you and promote you to others. Listen to their guidance and act on their advice. Don’t be afraid of change. Take on challenges that you do not feel ready for – your mentor will be there to help if things do go wrong. Most, if not all, the board-level executives that I work with have confidantes that they turn to for a second opinion on seemingly intractable problems as well as look to for help with gritty everyday challenges.

Build your network and allow your mentors to enhance your personal brand for you. Be a mentor to others – helping someone to work through their challenges will put your own into perspective and bring you clarity. Headhunters value the opinions of people they trust. If you are recommended to us by a highly regarded mutual contact, you will get the call.

Third, you need some luck. That oncein-a-lifetime opportunity comes up just when you, at a push, are credible to take it on. Embrace those opportunities and take advantage of them – they don’t come around every day. As Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg said: “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask which seat. Just get on.”