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When the New Currency of Business is Relationships, Boards Must Understand All Stakeholders to Remain Relevant

By | Building the Modern Boardroom, Uncategorized | No Comments

by Coco Brown, Founder & CEO of Athena Alliance

Who are you most likely to hire if you’re at a crossroad of indecision? Someone you know.

Who do you trust when you need sound business advice? The advisor your colleagues referred you to.

Who do you buy from when you’re teetering between brands, credit card in hand? The brand you know best.

When something goes wrong at a partnering organization, who do you want to speak with? Someone you believe has your best interests in mind.

When something goes right at a partnering organization, who do you want to speak with? Someone you believe in.

We think business is done in dollar bills. In VC, in cryptocurrency, or checks with ink-black figures scrawled across—but no. Business today revolves around relationships, an intangible that can’t be replicated through technology. Despite modern advances like artificial intelligence, we’re still human at our core. And, despite it being 2019, we still prefer working with other humans. People inherently value relationships—the conversations they deliver, the trust that unfolds, the give and take.

This is why relationship-driven roles, such as the Chief Customer Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer, and the Chief Marketing Officer, must be represented at the board table. These individuals know so much about an organization’s’ most important relationships and on such an intimate level. They’re uniquely capable of strategically guiding organizations on issues ranging from customer buy-in and brand to product development and employee retention. These roles are hyper-focused on the customer as the center of all things, and is absolutely obsessed with driving value at the customer level—whether that customer is a job candidate, a mid-level manager, a customer or investor.

 

It’s not “just business.” It’s personal.

In today’s world, many organizations strive to manage everything. After all, we often have the tools, intelligence, and automation to do so. Aspects of business such as reputation management, customer buy-in, brand awareness—we’ve placed value on these elements as key levers in business success.

But there are some elements of business that can’t be 100% turned over to AI or to a CRM system to manage. These relationships vary by organization, industry and even phase of business. For example, at a startup, CCOs may be heavily focused on driving relationships with early enterprise clients. Figuring out what makes them tick, what motivates them, what aspects of the startup are sticky. Good CCOs will want to know the good, the bad, the ugly and the curious—and once they figure it out, they’ll seek to replicate the good across every future client.

At an enterprise, a CCO might shift gears to focus on the entire customer lifecycle. To close gaps in engagement and sales renewals; to discover why potential clients walked away (and what made others sign on the dotted line). They’ll look to understand every customer touch point—every email, phone call, click, you name it—from the customer side to the operational inner workings of the organization.

As for CHROs: in an era when employees hold more power than ever and readily go from company to company, CHROs have gained recognition for taking the lead on critical issues like compensation, culture and workplace policy. Boards are increasingly seeing that it’s not just a product that makes a great company; it begins and ends with people.

In parallel, buying customers expect more from brands today than they ever have, and this is where the CMO takes the lead. Buying customers don’t just want a quality product or service, they want a real relationship — a conversation, a give and take, trust. Managing a brand the right way extends far beyond creative works; it’s about influencing buyer behavior, reputation management, customer engagement, and differentiation in a tough market.

Without a doubt, these relationship-driven executives are in swim lanes of their own, difficult to replicate organization to organization. They’re deeply intertwined in operations. Their reach extends far beyond a sale. And, each must act with the spirit of the brand.

These roles offer unique perspectives to any challenge as they don’t just deal with the data side of an equation, they deal with the people side as well. The heart, the emotion, the frustration, the excitement, and the potential. These elements are so crucial to success, and these are the leaders who are charged with making them repeatable. With every customer, in and outside of the organization. Spot on, every time.

 

Relationships = results

Strong relationships have the power to recruit bright minds, close big deals, and build cult-like followings.

  •        Relationships build community. A Harvard Business Review article examined customer relationships at top brands, “Think about the relationships that Amazon, Patagonia, and Airbnb have with their customers. Amazon is about connecting people with the information and vendors they need, while Patagonia fosters a community of like-minded explorers and environmental stewards. Airbnb blurs the line between provider and consumer, to encourage deeper personal connections—even, occasionally, at cost to the company. Each model is clearly stated and universally understood, internally and in the market,” but it notes that success such as this requires a kick-off from leadership: “This starts with organizational leaders asking the question, ‘What relationships are critical to the success of my business?’”
  •        Relationships can differentiate a brand. Relationships spark loyalty, repeat engagement and referrals. As consulting firm McKinsey put it, “The wave of commoditization and shorter product cycles has made it harder for product-oriented businesses to stand out from the pack. In this environment, consistently delighting customers becomes a difficult-to-replicate competitive edge that gives resiliency to a company’s brand equity.”
  •        Relationships enable innovation. Relationships are about give and take. The brightest organizations use what their customers “give” — the feedback, the user data, the product feedback and more — and create something stronger. The act of listening to customer feedback can help secure an organization’s place in the future. As Gartner describes, “Customer-centric organizations understand the unique problems and expectations of their customers as well as the context of those needs. They then consistently deliver products and services that meet those expectations.”

 

Does your board understand the customer?

For the modern board, these people-centered roles can offer invaluable perspectives on how to spark, nurture, and sustain strategic long-term relationships. Experienced executives such as CMOs, CHROs, and CCOs can speak to nuances on relationships within the technology industry, how to drive value with customers and craft the right partnerships for a stronger business.

In an era where everyone is watching, everyone is “talking” and sharing information, and where everything is digital, a focus on the customer is a strategy that will never go stale. As we move to become a more tech-enabled and tech-dependent society, a return to relationships—the ones that really matter—may be more important than ever.

 

Attention Chicago: Meet Helen Yu, Athena EVP for the Midwest Region

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Helen Yu is an experienced leader with a track record of transforming organizations. She’s known for her passion and sharp strategic thinking. Helen is an expert at improving and scaling business models and driving incremental revenue growth and profitability across businesses of all sizes.

Athena originally engaged with Helen for help in an area she excels in: go-to-market strategy. But Helen’s enthusiasm for helping other women connect with each other and other influencers was apparent from the start. As Athena’s regional EVP for the Chicago area, Helen invests her personal time and energy into supporting Athena’s growing Midwest ecosystem.

She’s quickly built a reputation for sharing practical advice, helping women prepare for board interviews, and helping rising leadership stars ascend into the C-suite. Meet Helen in person—at Athena’s February 12 panel event. Learn more and RSVP here.

 

At a glance

  • Founder and CEO of Tigon Advisory, a consultancy that advises CEOs and founders in the development of their vision, operation strategy, organization alignment and cross-functional performance metrics.
  • On the board of advisors for Jebbit, VMSA, and the C-Suite Accelerator program
  • Serving as subject matter expert at venture capital companies including Andreessen Horowitz and OpenView.
  • Has leadership experience in nearly every functional area of a business, including finance, marketing, sales, and customer success.
  • Known for driving rapid growth and guiding organizations to success at global scale, in both SaaS and traditional businesses.

 

Tell me about your new advisory firm.

I started my own advisory firm a year and a half ago, and I have been working with a few companies since then. My primary focus area is to advise founders and CEOs on the development of their vision, operation strategy, organization alignment, and cross-functional performance metrics design—and go-to-market (GTM) strategy to drive sustainable growth. Most recently, I’ve been working with a female founder who is about to launch her product. I’ve been consulting with her on a strategy for fundraising, product-market fit, branding, GTM, and pricing.

 

How has your professional experience and expertise shaped your role with Athena?

My professional experience sets a solid foundation for a board director role. That’s how I initially connected with Coco and the Athena Alliance team. Initially, I started my Athena journey to advise Coco on her GTM and growth strategy. At the time, I had started my own firm and wanted to contribute more to the Midwestern ecosystem. It was challenging, as I spent the past 20-plus years working for companies out of Silicon Valley. I reached out to a few successful female leaders in my network and learned about the lack of centralized community that helps them grow from middle manager to C-level and then to the boardroom. There are some organizations that offer executive coaching, but none offer much of a hands-on journey experience all the way through the boardroom like Athena.

I want to act as a sounding board to those who are in need. Having gone through the journey myself, I am quite passionate about leadership development. I offer advice to those upcoming leaders who need guidance on how to best pivot their career, or advice on transitioning to a C-level executive. I also offer mock interviews for board roles, or simply review and polish their bio. Having been a speaker at many events, I moderate panel and co-host events for Athena Alliance. I am proud of the turnout at the Athena Alliance Chicago launch event last October.

 

What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my ability to transition from an accountant, to a financial analyst, to an app developer, to a solution architect, to a consulting practice leader, to an enterprise sales leader, to a marketing leader, and to a global customer success leader. The vastly different nature of each role well prepared me for becoming a business leader who understands the financial impact of each business decision. It also allows me to advise companies on how to operationalize their vision to accelerate growth.

 

What qualities are you known for?

Grit and resilience. These are the qualities I learned from my grandma, who raised me. I have failed multiple times, personally and professionally. I view those experiences as the best learning opportunities.

 

What does serving on a board mean to you, both personally and professionally?

Personally, I want to become a multiplier. By that, I mean that I want to enable multiple companies/people to maximize their ability to succeed. My natural curiosity propels the process of learning new things. Serving on boards provides the opportunity to learn and contribute at the same time.

In the long term, I’d like to transition from being an operational executive for one company to a board director for multiple companies. I can then use my spare time to mentor and coach more upcoming leaders and get engaged with humanity-related initiatives.

 

What sparked your interest in taking on a more prominent role with Athena, helping to build our Chicago market?

After I began working with Coco on Athena’s GTM strategy, I realized how much my passion is aligned with the mission of the Athena Alliance. I’ve lived in Chicago for the past 18 years. I felt it was time to contribute more to the Midwestern ecosystem, and this was an opportunity to do so.

 

Why is this involvement important to you personally and professionally?

Being raised by my grandma, who played an outsized role in shaping my character of giving, being authentic, straight talk, and hard-working, I want to make positive impact on others so that my grandma would be proud of me. She was always there for me when I was in need. Her spirit always lives with me. Doing something to make her proud is important to me personally.

Professionally, I benefited from working for great leaders early in my career. Their servant leadership styles became my idol. I made a pledge to pay it back whenever I can. And, through my involvement, I have the opportunity to meet many talented leaders who I learned tons from as well. Giving back provides a sense of accomplishment and allows me to take pride in others’ success.

 

What’s been the interest so far in Chicago?

Chicago is quite different from the two coasts. When it comes to innovation, often it’s the coastal cities that first come to mind. In reality, the Midwest market is quickly developing into a force of its own. Coastal firms are increasingly making investments in the Midwest market and there’s been an increasing number of opportunities, investments, and more affordable talents. It’s an exciting time to be here. And at the individual level, I’m seeing growing energy and enthusiasm from women leaders who want to join Athena Alliance and invest in their senior leadership development and getting engaged at board capacity.

 

What are your hopes for Chicago in 2019?

I want to create an embracing and inclusive community where female leaders can have a sounding board whenever they are in need. I wish I had that experience when I went through my journey. Chicago is a very spread-out region. This might mean that leaders in our community have long commutes. I’m working to create sub-communities across Chicago so that people can get more involved, without traveling far to get to events or meet up with other members. Creating a thriving community where more organizations are engaged along with their leaders will pay dividends for the Chicago ecosystem.

 

How can Athena members get the most out of events?

As we further progress our career, the effects of networking become much more apparent. This is especially true for those transitioning into the C-suite or into a board role. We may meet people and, in the moment, not realize that person can help you down the road. I’ve had that happen to me many times in my career. I meet various people and we stay in touch and end up helping each other.

I’m a firm believer in the value of participating in events, the key is to not to just show up at the events, it is what you do during events and post events. The real value in Athena events is that they serve as an opportunity to elevate your network. Our event attendees include senior executives, powerful board decision-makers, and board influencers; these are people who can help push your goals further to reality.

 

What do you want members to know about you?

I want them to know that I am here to serve in different capacities as they go through their career growth journey. Athena serves women at multiple levels of leadership, from VPs whose goal is to get into the C-suite to aspiring board directors to founders or CEOs who are forming their first boards. My value extends to all these women. I can support them in various ways, such as offering advice on areas like business scaling and achieving rapid growth to product launches and raising capital, or simply be a sounding board as they evaluate growth opportunities.

I’m well-connected with industry influencers through LinkedIn and Twitter. If members have a question and I cannot find the answer right that moment, I am confident that I can connect them with people who can.

 

How can Chicago members best engage with you?

I’m open to nearly almost any channel and I try to be flexible. Email me, call me, connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter (@YuHelenYu). I’m happy to meet with members after hours or even on the weekends. Reach out—I’m looking forward to connecting.

Additionally, I’d like to invite all members and prospective members to our February 12 event. Join us for a discussion on stewarding long-term corporate value, and what that means for the modern boardroom. You can learn more or RSVP here.

Your Career Is Dynamic. (The Journey to the Boardroom Is, Too.)

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By Founder & CEO Coco Brown and COO Danna Lewis

Have you ever had a goal that you wanted so badly that you couldn’t see anything other than the finish line? Then the moment you attain that goal you move on to the next?

We’ve chatted with potential Athena Alliance members who have their minds set on achieving a board seat. For these women, it seems as though it’s all or nothing. Of course, we’re the first to champion an ambition like a board match. Our board match program is a core value of what we deliver as an organization to members and companies alike. We coach, guide, and do everything in our means to see that more women are placed in independent board of director seats. We do this because we believe that diverse, modern boards are paramount to healthy, sustainable business practices.

 

The next phase of your career

The journey to the boardroom is what we call an executive woman’s “last mile.” It’s that last sprint (more like a marathon) to make it to the highest level of impact at an organization.

Achieving a board seat requires diligence, focus, strategy. Purpose and dedication. Board seats do not happen by accident or sheer luck; they happen because women work hard and enlist the help of supporters, coaches, and strategic influencers.

A board seat is a worthy goal. For many members, achieving a board seat is on their “career bucket list”—it’s the one thing they must achieve. It’s often the next phase of one’s career. It’s an opportunity for women to reinvent their contributions to the business world, moving from operator to advisor; to leverage decades of experience by sharing their hard-earned expertise. Many women desire what men have done all along: to retire and to shift gears to the boardroom, where they can amass substantial income well into retirement and enjoy flexibility and continued fulfillment.

Of course, men work hard too. Very hard. But the vast majority of men already exist in the right networks. Men already have the right connections. For them, a board journey is a much more organic experience. However, once women are in those same networks and once women have formed the right connections, both parties are well positioned to compete for open board roles.

 

The barriers for women leaders

Athena works with female investors who are on the path to making Partner. We work with female founder CEOs who are working to raise funds and constructing their boards in parallel. We guide rising executives, with their eyes set on a role within the C-suite. And of course, we coach both aspiring and current board directors as they seek new roles with outside organizations.

All these women face similar challenges in accomplishing their goals. The first is a network challenge. While these women may be well-networked, they may not be in the right networks—the networks with the connections capable of helping them reach their goals. Not only do women require extremely diverse networks, they also need to get their foot in the door to the networks run by men. This means getting in front of investors, CEOs, and other corporate leaders, allowing them to gain greater exposure.

Additionally, as women’s careers evolve and become increasingly rich with new experiences, their personal stories can become obscure and complex. Many women find it challenging to communicate their value proposition. Their personal brand stories become less about how they got to where they are today and what their current functional role is, and they become more about their overarching ability to serve as a steward for business success. This shift in how we communicate our value proposition requires awareness, confidence, and practice.

Another challenge as it relates to a board seat: there is no guarantee of success. The board process has an air of mystery and ambiguity about it, an aspect that makes it all the more satisfying when it does happen. Board seats become available at sporadic times, the interview and decision process can be very lengthy, and when they do become available, boards and CEOs often have a very specific idea in mind of who should fill the seat.

But here’s the positive news. This process—if you can loosely call it that, is undergoing a wave of modernization. Boards today, more than ever, are opening their doors to contemporary skill sets as they seek modern, relevant experience. Roles like the chief customer officer, chief digital officer, chief human resources officer, and chief marketing officer are at an all-time high demand.

For example, Athena recently matched Joy Chen, a renowned CMO with VibeChain; we matched Jocelyn Mangan, a product development and operations executive, with ChowNow; we supported Kathy Zwickert, former CHRO of Netsuite, to the board of the public company Avalara; we supported Diana McKenzie, CIO of Workday, to the board of Metlife. And, with laws being passed like California’s recent HB 826, there’s never been a better time to be a woman who is board-savvy, board confident, and board-ready.

 

You create your path. We guide your way.

Like your career, the journey to a board seat can’t be plotted out in precise dotted lines. There’s bound to be twists and turns, starts and stops. In fact, rarely are there defined career paths in today’s world. People study an area of interest, explore a field, and they often pivot—several times over the years. The beauty of this maze is that no one is in charge of your career path but you: you choose your passion. You discover your strengths. You make the decisions.

But along the way, there’s value in the journey: the contacts made, the confidence gained, the power you feel when you can step onto a stage and deliver an articulate, well-crafted, and meaningful message. The high you feel when you can see that you’ve persuaded an audience, whether it be a board interview or a sea of faces at a large conference. The authority and credibility you gain when you’ve evolved your personal brand to be considered an expert in the media.

This—all of this—is part of the journey to the boardroom. And wins along the way deserve to be celebrated.

 

How do you define success?

What does it for you? Is it hitting a target or achieving the milestones and learnings along the way? (By the way, there is no wrong answer; this is for you to decide).

If you’ve made your goal to run a marathon, are you celebrating the fact that you’re developing new, active habits? Or perhaps you’re celebrating that you’re teaching your children that they should get off the couch and move. Or maybe you’re thrilled when you hit a new personal record for a mile, or find a new running partner—someone you never would have met if you hadn’t signed up for the training program. Or, for others, maybe it’s the education about running mechanics—your form, your gait, your arm movements—that drives value.

Whatever it is, it’s inarguable that you can’t reach a milestone like a marathon without many mini-victories along the journey. Worthwhile victories. Life-changing victories.

 

There is no “one-size-fits-all”

Some members achieve a board seat right off the bat, and others take a few years to become board-savvy and board-ready. This is partially on the members’ end to do their homework in working with journey advisors and becoming more self-aware, but frankly, it’s also part of the naturally slower pace of many boards. There is only so much action.

Athena Alliance has built a fine reputation for its impactful board matches and its strategic way of preparing executive women for that next level. But we are so much more than board seats. When you look beyond the board seat, you realize that Athena Alliance is a powerful executive development engine. We support some of the most progressive, intelligent, board-savvy women on the planet. We’ve also created a network of hundreds of women who are willing and ready to pick up the phone or answer an email to lift other women up

Working intimately with our journey advisors and looking inward as you take the first steps in this journey, you’ll find that Athena will change the way you approach both your personal and professional life. There’s no way around it; your participation changes how you function across all areas of your life for the better, allowing you to become more mindful, confident, and courageous in your every interaction.

Success in life doesn’t come with a starting point and an end goal. It’s a moving, evolving, dynamic spectrum. That’s what makes it worth it, that’s what makes it so profoundly personal —and so deeply satisfying when it all comes together for you. Whatever that may be—however you define your success in all of its dynamic pieces—we’ll meet you where you are while supporting you and coaching you to success.

Now, that’s something worth celebrating.

In a Market Where It’s Harder Than Ever to Dominate, Chief Revenue Officers Belong in the Boardroom

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by Coco Brown, Founder & CEO of Athena Alliance

Within the last decade, many changes have occurred within the C-suite, but the rise of the chief revenue officer may be the most notable. In a world where moving fast is just as important as doing things right, more and more organizations are realizing that making strides in sales, marketing and product can be amplified by a laser focus on growth. That is, a strategic, holistic approach to growing revenue—from every customer, from every channel, from every product.

 

Grow or die (really).

Taking a strategic approach to revenue seems like an obvious move, but many companies fall into operational silos. Business units tend to turn their heads down, focusing on their unique initiatives versus thinking about the bigger picture. One unit’s idea of success may differ from another’s. In parallel, operational inefficiencies can drag an organization down. It doesn’t matter if the product is incredible or the brand is relatable—if an organization cannot generate revenue with a synergistic mindset, then failure is on the horizon.

In fact, consulting firm McKinsey refers to growth as a “do or die” imperative. A recent article says, “Consider the fate of the 100 largest companies on the New York Stock Exchange of 30 years ago. Among those that enjoyed strong shareholder returns but didn’t post top-line growth, almost 50 percent had been acquired or delisted 20 years later. Companies with high organic growth also return a better stock price.”

But for most organizations, growth is easier said than done. Business moves fast—and customers move faster. Today’s customers shop around. If they aren’t satisfied, they’ll happily let you (and the world) know it across every social media channel. If they like a product, they’ll readily recommend it to friends. They research brands. They want answers real-time. The result: closing deals is harder than ever, more important than ever.

Companies today must fight for every sale, every interaction, every relationship.

 

A holistic approach to revenue

And so, it’s no longer sufficient to just be “good enough” if organizations want to last. Technology companies—especially within SaaS—now know that a sale is not just a sale; there’s an entire pipeline to be nurtured. In doing so, many organizations have opened their eyes to a long-standing internal disconnect: the great divide between marketing and sales. The road from lead generation (marketing) to closing deals (sales) is ripe with opportunity to be more efficient, to unify employees, to make a greater impact. Part sales guru, part growth hacker, part operations coach, the chief revenue officer has entered the scene to bridge the gap between marketing and sales functions to take a holistic, organizational-wide view of revenue.

It’s about taking a long-term view of what it takes to win in today’s high-tech world—where customers come with equally high expectations. It’s about discovering new ways to create long-term growth versus finding comfort in a single knockout quarter. It’s about linking functional units within an organization to squeeze the most revenue out of every existing customer and to rapidly acquire new ones. Revenue is no longer celebrated as one-off wins but long-term, rolling gains. It’s a sprint, not a marathon. The goal: predictable, steady and strong growth.

CROs are expected to pull the pieces together to make all this possible, implementing new tools and processes, tracking the right metrics, and coordinating effectively across teams. And, they must do it with discipline, honed leadership skills and a deep understanding of data.

  • Discovering new growth opportunities. CROs evaluate everything from customer loyalty and sales data to competitor performance and current revenue streams to uncover hidden opportunities for growth.
  • Understanding market trends. CROs look at industry trends and broader trends to understand where the market is headed and how their organization fits into that evolution.
  • Backing up decisions with data. CROs rely on data, testing, and detailed segmentation to guide the way for efficient spending while making smart moves on where and how they’ll compete.
  • Driving operational efficiencies. They can unlock the potential for resource reallocation and new revenue streams by consistently and relentlessly evaluating operations.
  • Unifying teams. More often than not, this applies to sales and marketing, but it could also speak to other functional areas. The best CROs can align teams on a singular mission, backed by the right processes, resources, and metrics to make it come to life.

 

Serious about competing? Put a CRO on your board.

CROs can make or break a business—literally. While many traditional board compositions focus

heavily on finances and compliance, guided by the perspectives of aging former CEOs and CFOs, a more modern approach to board composition might include a CRO. It’s a practical move—business today isn’t like it was a decade or two ago. New challenges confront businesses in every sector: digitization, the rapid rollout of new technologies, an evolving workforce, social media, cybersecurity and the mounting importance of brand. Each of these issues is complex, new, and relevant.

Glo Gordon, a CRO and newly appointed board member to Matrixx Software, explained how CROs can bring an invaluable perspective to the boardroom. “Seasoned CROs can offer boards and executive leadership powerful context for business demand and winnability of new use cases and offerings. We’re leaders in growth and healthy revenue for transformational companies. The enterprise C-suite is highly engaged in top-line growth initiatives. CROs who are board directors can help with contacts, networks, and relationships, as well as insights into everything from comp plans, commercials and org structure to resources, leadership development, and performance management.”

The right board composition ensures that modern perspectives, ones that can tackle these complex challenges, are represented. While it’s up to CEOs and current boards to understand their most pressing imperatives and to determine what type of board director will help them achieve success, a CRO will make sure you’re around to take those challenges head-on in the first place.

 

The Board Package: A Career Essential For Every Executive

By | Advancing Executive Development, Athena In Action, Executive Development | No Comments

For executive women—those who are VP or C-level—a Board Package is an essential tool in any career toolbox. It doesn’t matter whether being a board director is a part of the career path; it’s a critical element for leaders who want to refine their skills, own their value, and become board-savvy.

 

What is a Board Package?

The short answer: A Board Package brings together an executive’s career achievements, greatest strengths, and general background to create a cohesive overview of the executive. It includes an executive’s bio, an elevator pitch, a polished resume, and a meticulously crafted LinkedIn profile.

The long answer: A Board Package is far more than a communications tool. It’s a launch pad for executive women to fully own their strengths and the value they deliver to an organization—and then take the leap to the next level of their career, whether that’s an SVP role, a C-level role, or a board position.

 

The value of becoming board savvy, board confident, and board connected

It’s unavoidable: interacting with, and presenting to, boards is part of the modern executive experience. But unfortunately, it’s a part of the experience that most new executives arrive unprepared for. For many, their initial interactions with boards get dropped on them; there’s often little time to prepare (the right way). And so, board presentations get treated like any other presentation.

Except, they’re not any other presentation. It’s a presentation that can catapult one’s career or potentially crush it. That’s a lot at stake.

While board construct is still on the cusp of transformation (most corporate boards still resemble the construct of the 1980s!), today’s way of doing business means boards of directors often want to talk to the experts in-house—the ones facing challenges that businesses are only just experiencing in the last five to 10 years. Like cybersecurity, the importance of brand (and the court of public opinion), and the changing demographics, sentiments and structure of worker-employer relationship. This means executives from many functional areas such as HR, operations, technology, marketing, and more often get tapped to share their expertise with the board.

Take chief information officers, for example. One article reports that, “Presenting to the board of directors is no longer a novel experience for CIOs. Given the importance of technology to business strategy—as both enabler and growth driver—IT leaders now make regular appearances before their boards, who themselves better understand the critical role technology plays. But that doesn’t make the prospect of speaking to the board any less daunting.”

And chief human resource officers: “Talent management is gaining a new prominence on corporate boards. It’s evolved from being an agenda item under succession planning or compensation to driving strategic decisions about fostering innovation, growth and the ability to outperform the competition.”

These days, no executive can avoid interacting with boards—it’s part of their job.

 

For executives: know your value (and prepare for a high-pressure environment)

Harvard Business Review notes that presenting to senior executives isn’t something to take lightly. In fact, “senior executives are one of the toughest crowds you’ll face as a presenter. They’re incredibly impatient because their schedules are jam-packed—and they have to make lots of high-stakes decisions, often with little time to weigh options. So, they won’t sit still for a long presentation with a big reveal at the end.”

This is where a Board Package comes in. It can push an executive from good to great. It instills confidence in an executive: a profound ownership of their career, their achievements, and their know-how that they personally earned throughout their lifetime.

It creates a hard-sought cohesiveness, and helps any executive step up to the plate (the  boardroom plate, that is) in their best light.

 

For businesses: prime your executive team for the board—or for the next phase of their career

Forward-thinking CEOs know the value of developing their top-ranking team members. It’s an investment not just in the executives, but in the livelihood of the business. It primes the most senior executives for a long, satisfying career with an organization where they are set up for success.

It also takes senior leaders and coaches them to the next level, whether that’s excelling even more in a current role or making their way to another C-level role or board position at an outside company.

Leadership finesse, communication, and presentation skills are not necessarily natural to every leader (even those who have earned a role in the executive ranks). Yet, these skills are the most sought after and most valued in a successful leader.

Senior consultants at a global executive search firm said, “the ideal C-suite candidate possesses the power of persuasion and excellent presentation skills… Speaking convincingly to the concerns of varied audiences—knowledgeable and unsophisticated, internal and external, friendly and skeptical—calls for mental deftness and stylistic versatility. Some consultants emphasized that a strong candidate should be ‘board-ready’; others emphasized the ability to ‘influence the direction of a business and the front office’ and to achieve ‘organizational buy-in.’”

 

Inside Athena: meet your Board Package team

Adriana Azuri leads Athena’s in-house Board Package mastermind. She and a team of writers work with each and every Athena Alliance member, one-on-one, to form a customized Board Package. She’s been an executive writer for more than 18 years.

Her specialty: conveying the whole nature of an executive’s value. Quantifying career wins. Highlighting top achievements. Positioning top leaders to show their very best self—on paper and in the boardroom. In addition to Adriana and the Board Package, Athena guides members to success through other coaches, such as media, voice and presentation, and more.

Members come to Athena through many avenues: from corporate partnerships, on their own, or a referral from a friend. Some are absolutely dead-set on achieving that board seat. Others are in exploratory mode. Athena also works with CEOs who are building their boards and investors who want to ramp up the next generation of business. And then, of course, there’s those executives in our network who want to reach the next step, like a C-level title.

The experience unifying each and every member is that they must be board-savvy to make that next win. And it all starts with the Board Package.

A Fresh Perspective on Priorities as We Enter the New Year

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The 2019 Goal Challenge

By Danna Lewis, COO | Athena Alliance

 

There are a lot of articles that go up this time of year that speak to goals and priorities and clean slates. The idea of starting fresh—that you can conquer just about anything—is one of the most exciting things about a New Year. There are twelve months before you, and you’re in (seemingly) complete control over what happens in each. Opportunities are endless.

Naturally, this time of year sparks moments of reflection, anticipation, and motivation. What can you do next year that capitalizes on this year’s accomplishments or serves as a completely new target? Your goals may have to do with the smaller moments of the day, carving out precious time for yourself amidst the hustle of the Monday to Friday. They may be physical—you’re going to move, to train your body, to climb that mountain, whatever your personal mountain may be. Or your goals may be professional… reaching the c-suite, having the self-awareness to shape yourself into a stronger leader, or achieving a board seat.  

Whatever your goals may be, they will require discipline and the ability to prioritize.

 

Evaluate the “now”.

Your priorities are whatever you’re doing now. I’m not just talking about reading this article—I’m talking about your current week. What are you up to? What is sucking up your time?

For a powerful exercise in revealing your priorities, take 10 minutes and view your calendar for today and the past week. Write down everything you were doing—every meeting, every commitment. Think back, beyond what’s written in your calendar, and jot down everything you can remember about your week. Talking on the phone to an old friend? Going for a run? Baking holiday cookies? Picking your kids up from school? Working late into the night? Whatever it may be—write it down. Put it on paper, get it before your eyes, make it real.

That list. Whatever it may be. Regardless of what you said your priorities were, what you actually spent your time on is what you (consciously or unconsciously) made your priorities.

 

Remember who is at the center.

I suggest the list exercise without judgment. In fact, it’s something I frequently return to as I, too, seek to make my actions congruent with my ambitions.

It happens to all of us. Our days can go by in a blur. We move from one thing to the next. We become exhausted. It’s as though life is “happening to us.” Through it all, we still talk about our goals and priorities, but we lose sight of what’s really happening.

We’re the center of our lives, or we should be. These things aren’t happening around us or to us. It’s easy to forget that we’re in the driver’s seat. And that we can make mindful choices about our actions and everything else that comprises our days.

 

Your challenge: find an accountability partner.

Give your priorities the attention they deserve. What will it take for you to make your goals and ambitions a priority in 2019?

As an Athena member, you’ve decided that becoming more board savvy, board confident, and board connected is a priority for you. The good news is that Athena is a community of over 250 women who have also chosen to make becoming more board savvy, board confident, and board connected a priority in their lives. Our Athena network is vast! I encourage every member to reach out to one another and help each other to take charge of this priority in 2019.

As a member, you can connect with every other member through the Athena member’s technology platform. Search through the membership (via our search feature) in a way that makes sense and is meaningful for you to see who you would like to connect with. Perhaps you’re drawn to someone in the same industry or someone with the same title or perhaps someone geographically close. Then reach out, connect, and see if it’s a fit for you to be accountability buddies with the other person. And, no hard feelings if it isn’t; there is an abundance of women to connect with.

Own your priorities. Make them a reality by engaging with your accountability buddy for strategy and support. Lift each other up. You can do this by coming to an agreement about how, when and what you will connect on and then committing to holding each other accountable. The best buddy systems I’ve seen have a clear, recurring meeting time and guideposts like checking in on your actions and how they do (or don’t) sync up to your goals. And then, once you’ve accomplished something and you’re well on your way, be sure to celebrate your achievements. Acknowledge your choices. Acknowledge your actions. And acknowledge that you’re doing your part to show up.

Your time is yours. Next year is yours. So, guard that calendar, connect with the Athena community, and make it happen—whatever you want “it” to be. And please let us know your stories, we would love to support and celebrate your successes with you.

Spotlight on Athena CEO Champions: Zack Rosen of Pantheon

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zach rosen pantheon athena ceo championZack Rosen is visionary. As CEO of Pantheon, Zack envisions a world where developers can create amazing websites, fast, with effortless iteration and powerful collaboration tools. Pantheon makes it happen through a cloud-based website development platform that automates much of the backend nitty-gritty work that developers endure to build beautiful websites. Zack is a pioneer within the development industry, so it seems fitting that he’s a CEO Champion in ours.

He created the first large-scale Drupal website for the Howard Dean campaign in 2003, co-founded the world’s first Drupal development shop, CivicSpace, and then went on to co-founded another, Chapter Three. If that’s not enough, he also co-founded Mission Bicycle. As for Pantheon, what started out as a pressing personal need for a solution has evolved into a company of more than 100 team members.

Since partnering with Athena, Pantheon has secured Amy Vetter as an advisor. She’s a veteran expert in areas such as customer relationships and experience, growth and scalability, and entrepreneurship, who was most recently chief relationship officer for Xerox Americas. Read on to see what Zack has to say about his goals for growing his network, and the experience he’s had with Athena so far.

 

What sparked your interest in Athena?

Board searches are very difficult and incredibly important. Athena Alliance offers a valuable service for a challenge that is very top of mind for me and our company.

 

What’s the greatest competitive advantage gained from having a diverse board?

Research has shown over and over again that diverse teams outperform. This should not be a surprise. Teams that can look at hard problems from all angles will find creative solutions that homogenous teams would never see. It’s that simple.

 

How does a diverse board impact a company’s future success?

The performance of a board as a team will have an outsized impact on a company’s path to success.

Boards serve an incredibly important function for companies. They help an executive team plan and operate at a higher strategic level, in quarters and years versus weeks and months. They also weigh in on the most critical decisions a company will make. Before you add someone to your board, you must ask, “Is this the person I most want around the table when we must make the most vital decisions?”

 

You work with Amy Vetter as an advisor, who you met through Athena. How is that going so far?

Amy has the kind of experience we literally couldn’t find anywhere else. We spent years looking. We are so excited to learn from her and have her advise myself and our executives on our go-to-market programs and strategy.

 

What do you feel is the great barrier to scaling a startup?

The biggest constraint on scaling startups lies in access to leadership talent. Athena Alliance has built an incredibly valuable network of female executives you cannot find anywhere else. We hope to recruit an incredibly talented diverse board member via Athena Alliance’s network.

 

What’s your take on the Athena network and the connections you’ve made through this relationship so far?

The panel events are very insightful, filled with a lot of touching stories. I got a lot of practical advice from attending. The Athena community is incredible. I’ve made invaluable connections: two advisors and one potential customer, which I did not expect! I go to four to six industry events a year. The bar is just really high. Athena Alliance attracts a very impressive cross-section of executives across many domains: CEOs, board members, functional leaders. Everyone I met was a rare talent.

 

Smart Boards Practice Before IPO

By | Building the Modern Boardroom | No Comments

by Coco Brown, Founder & CEO of Athena Alliance

IPOs around the world skyrocketed in 2017—there were 1,624 and more than $188 billion raised. Not only was it a banner year for IPOs (the biggest since 2007), it was a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of deals since 2016.

Achieving IPO marks an incredible achievement for any organization. The path to get there tends to disrupt company operations as executives and boards of directors scrutinize the business from numerous angles. While many areas of a business experience transformation pre-IPO, what about the board of directors? IPO brings about many changes, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reporting, a public view of the executive team, and additional financial and accounting responsibilities. IPO also means a sea of modern responsibilities and challenges—ones that boards of decades past did not deal with, such as the need for modern social media strategies, navigating with a demanding workforce, and massive cybersecurity challenges

To tackle these new challenges, smart boards must prepare—and practice—early. Getting to IPO typically takes many months, but private companies that know IPO is in their future can and should begin preparing as early as a few years in advance. Another way of thinking about this is guiding your company to a higher standard of operations. It makes a lot of sense to operate and act as an IPO-ready organization, even if you aren’t ready to make the move just yet.

 

Today’s public companies face modern challenges

Achieving IPO may not be a modern concept, but the world in which a newly public company operates is hardly anything like it was just a decade or two ago. It moves faster, it’s tech-powered and global. As companies prepare for IPO, they need to not only hit the regulatory requirements and button up their financial affairs, but their boards must also be prepared for an onslaught of contemporary issues. Here is an outline of the top issues facing boards as they consider an IPO:

 

Financial and reporting overhaul: Getting your financial and reporting resources in order is a top challenge for IPOs, a consistent challenge. Pre-IPO is not the time to run lean in the area of finance. Staff up, and make sure you’re confident that you have the right team in place to carry you through this transition. Boards must evaluate the chief financial officer as the leader of the entire IPO process, a critical member of the organization during this time of transition and preparation. Ask yourselves: does your CFO have public company experience? Can they communicate effectively with both the board and investors? A controller and possibly an SEC reporting expert will also be leading roles as reporting timelines and standards become a top priority.

If your CFO doesn’t have IPO experience, see if a financial expert on your current board does. This board member can help stand up the board audit committee and help you evaluate your financial reporting systems, track the right metrics, choose an investment banking partner and organize your roadshow strategy, among many other duties.

Even before you’re official, act like a public company by running through reporting deadlines and processes with your internal finance teams to ensure everything is in order. Practice may include mock quarterly conference calls and running through regulatory compliance aspects such as Sarbanes-Oxley. You may want to practice undergoing an audit as if you were a public company and having your work checked, and rechecked.

 

Document company policies: Many private companies operate without a set of standard policies and procedures; it’s just the way things have always been done and perhaps it works for them. But public companies are held to a greater scrutiny. You can’t just “get by” – you must have policies documented, such as codes of conduct, communications, social media guidelines, whistleblower protection, and so forth. There’s no reason to wait to tackle these policies; not only can you get ahead by starting early, but you can build up a lengthy ramp-up period to ingrain these policies into company culture and make them a thoughtful part of operations.

A crucial policy for public companies: the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which affects everything from audit committees to financial reporting and disclosure requirements. This act will require your organization to meet a variety of internal controls. As you prepare for the public market, it is essential that you must practice these policies first.

 

Prepare for crisis management: According to Harvard Law School, 65% of CEOs said their companies went through a crisis in the last three years, and 73% of CEOs expect a crisis in the near future. For any company, it’s best to take a proactive approach to crisis management, and this is especially crucial for public companies. Image is everything. Communication with the public and your shareholders goes from a “nice to have” to something that can break your company – or take it to the next level. Have a proactive, polished plan in place for crisis management of all kinds, ranging from data breaches that can crush consumer confidence and environmental responsibility to social media screw-ups and disgruntled (outspoken) employees.

The best way to approach these “What if?” crisis scenarios is to think through each potential one and consider how your company would respond, and who within the organization will own which piece of the communication. Run mock scenarios all the way through the processes you develop, up to the board level. These mock scenarios will help you discover just how quickly your team can react in a crisis. They will help you quickly pinpoint where the bottlenecks exist from recovery to PR to cybersecurity and beyond.

 

Settle your brand story: Why do you exist, really? What value do you want to add to the public – and how are you doing that today and how will you continue to do so tomorrow? Why should anyone invest in you and why should the greater community care? Your brand story isn’t just the story of your founding, but it’s the bigger picture about why you’re here in the first place. Today, your potential shareholders want to understand you beyond your products and services; they want a relationship with you, and a deeper understanding of how you operate and interact with your employees and the world as a whole. Be prepared to explain yourself.

 

Know your cybersecurity strategy: Today, everyone cares about cybersecurity, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in IT. It’s personal. When consumers hand over their credit card on your website or trust you with their private information, be it an address or health care records, they expect you to handle those details with care and respect. Cyber threats are real, and they affect organizations of all sizes – no one is immune. What does your current security infrastructure look like, and how are you monitoring and responding to threats? And, what does that response look like at a public communications level? Facebook recently experienced a data breach that affected more than 50 million users. That level of a breach isn’t something meant to be handled solely within IT; it must be tackled at the board level.

 

Evaluate your board with fresh eyes: This is a difficult, but necessary, discussion. Your board of directors may have areas of weakness or redundancy. What areas of expertise are critical to the success of your organization, but not at all represented on your board of directors? When is it time for certain directors to move on and others to move in? This should be a candid discussion between the CEO and the current board. As a public board, you’ll need board directors to run the Audit Committee, Compensation Committee, and Nominating and Governance Committee. Do you have directors experienced in these realms today, with public company board experience? If not, you may want to put them in place at least 18 months in advance to stand up those functions and help you confidently operate as a public board day one.

It’s more important than ever to begin these conversations early. Finding a new board member can take as little as six months or as long as several years. Don’t wait until IPO to undergo a board refresh.

 

Take a fresh look at employee engagement: Employees in today’s market hold more power than many organizations are accustomed to. This shift is accelerated by social media and the currency of brand power. Job seekers today ask for inside intel (“What’s it really like to work there? What’s the culture like?). Employees today aren’t afraid to make bold moves to demand change. Look no further than Google for a very recent example: employees worldwide walked out in protest of Google’s sexual harassment policies, resulting in Google making significant internal changes. This power – of the employee, of social media – is something unforeseen. Boards today must be strategic and proactive in their approach.

These are just a few of the challenges that modern boards face. While modern boards can’t control the world in which they operate, they can choose to get in front of these unique challenges. The time to do it is now. Start practicing now, well before IPO.

 

Kick Your Imposter Syndrome to the Curb

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By Danna Lewis, COO of Athena Alliance

 

We’ve all had moments where we’ve felt like we don’t belong. Maybe it was your first week on a new job. Perhaps it was an interview, when applying to a master’s program, or presenting to a group of strangers. This feeling, “I don’t belong here,” can hit all of us—even at the highest peaks of our career. It’s called imposter syndrome, and it’s even been known to rear its ugly head here within the Athena Alliance network. I’ve noticed that during calls (too many calls) a potential member will ask if she has the right background, skills, or experience to join Athena.

If you’re unsure about your path to the boardroom or hesitant about adding to your already demanding schedule, that’s understandable. The Athena network is impressive. Many of our members are well-known within their industries and have accomplished a great deal in their careers. These are women who have transformed companies, created high-performance teams, taken companies to IPO, and built them from scratch. Many of them mentor junior women and other rising stars within their industries. These women are considered experts at what they do. Skepticism aside, if you are a C-suite, executive-level woman, female founder, or female investor with a desire to become more board savvy, board confident, and board connected, you are in the right place at Athena.

Yet… the imposter syndrome, it lurks behind even the most successful women. Why is this?

 

Imposter syndrome doesn’t discriminate.

Here’s the deal about imposter syndrome. It turns out, it doesn’t discriminate based on title or career experience. It can affect everyone, at any stage of their career. Women are more likely to experience the phenomenon than men. In fact, the Athena Alliance wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for impostor syndrome. Back in 2002, our Founder and CEO Coco Brown was asked to step up at Taos to the role of COO, Board Member, and one of only three owners of the company. Then in 2004 adding the title of President (with all functions of the company reporting to her, and her as the one report to the CEO). She deserved all of this after leading the company through a turnaround post-dotcom bust. But, she had many moments of wondering if the world around her would respect a female non-engineer CEO as the leader of a deeply technical company where 90% of the buyers were male technologists. It was for this reason that she started a dinner group of female CIOs (representing her top buyer). As Coco put it to me, “I wanted to enable them to create community and strengthen their sense of belonging and learning, while also doing the same for myself. One thing we all had in common was not seeing ourselves represented around us, so I had to create a space where we did see it.” How that then led twelve years later to Athena is a story for another time.

And for me, as a first-time COO with more than 20 years of dynamic operations, business development, and marketing experience, it sneaks up on me at times.

Self-doubt. The feeling that you were hired by mistake. That you’re going to be found out. That you’re a fraud! That you don’t belong among your peers. These feelings persist despite all the facts that say otherwise—your hands-on experience; the respect you’ve gleaned from colleagues; the jobs you’ve had and the titles you’ve held including your current position; and the promotions and salary you’ve earned. These proofs of your ability and your expertise cannot be made counterfeit.

Even Facebook’s iconic COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote about imposter syndrome in her book Lean In: “Many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are—impostors with limited skills or abilities.”

 

Influence instead of commiserate

I talked recently about prosperity consciousness as the mindset that there is more than enough available of what you desire and seek in life and work. I question imposter syndrome having some foundation in a perceived lack of opportunity. It’s easy to fall into the comparison and competition trap of believing that someone else has better skills or experience; that someone else brings more to the table.

What if your unique set of skills coupled with your experience, personality, and knowledge is the value proposition that sets you apart and makes you the right and best fit for exactly where you are?

While there may be more than one right person for a job or a board role, what if supporting each other in our endeavors allows a place of abundance? Taking this approach may connect us to opportunities we weren’t even aware of simply due to a lack of connecting, follow-up, or following through.

I see confidence within women who take the time for action-oriented support, a confidence in knowing that there’s enough opportunity to go around. A confidence in knowing that you can look to your network for just about anything, including evaluating an offer or connecting you with an opportunity. It’s confidence in knowing that, without a doubt, these women have your best interest in mind.

 

You don’t need to be perfect to advance in your career

There’s been some well-circulated research put out there that women do not apply for jobs unless they are a 100% perfect match, whereas men will go for an opportunity if they’re just 60% qualified. As women, we’ve been conditioned to check every box, to follow every rule, to get everything tidy and right before we take the next step in our career. While organizations will always look for their “unicorn candidates,” the only thing women achieve by not going for an opportunity is to close the door before it’s even been cracked open.

You didn’t get where you are today by being a leader born from a template. Organizations, despite their wishlist requirements for executives or board members,  are looking for dynamic individuals, ones who know their strengths (and weaknesses). They want leaders who can motivate a team and get folks on board to achieve transformation. They want individuals who can make informed decisions, work towards a greater vision and provide a diversity of thought

Reach for opportunities —not because you check every box today, but because you know that you have a solid set of accomplishments and the tenacity to conquer just about anything. Be confident knowing that your skills and experience are more than stepping stones up the ladder, they are transferable across many industries, functions, and titles.

 

Act like you belong (because you do).

Your relationship with Athena is personal. It’s between you and us. It’s about the goals you set for yourself. It’s not about where others are in their journey. It’s not about who secured which board seat. It’s not about private versus public company, your age, or your tenure. This is about making a promise to yourself to continue to lead at a higher level of impact — whatever you deem that to be. For some, that may be a board seat. For others, it may simply look like becoming more board-savvy and board confident.

One of our core values is that we meet members where they are. There is much more to all of us beyond our polished LinkedIn profiles, resumes, and titles. Athena embraces women who are curious about their potential as well as those who know and own their potential.

For prospective members, this means asking yourself:

  •        What are your personal and professionals goals that you want support reaching?
  •        Do you want to become more confident in your leadership skills and your value?
  •        Do you want to feel empowered and prepared to present to boards and interact with boards?
  •        Can you succinctly describe what you do and the value you deliver, in just a few sentences?
  •        Do you want to cultivate and grow your personal brand?
  •        Can you confidently own your accomplishments and communicate those to others?

Only you can know where you want to go—that’s your job. Our job is to support you in your personal journey.

You’ve earned it.

Preparing for the Next Level of Leadership: Your Board Package

By | Board Savvy | No Comments

There’s no way around it: interviewing and preparing for board directorship is tricky. It goes against convention. It’s a wild card by nature: it may be formal, or it may look more like a series of casual conversations. It may feel almost serendipitous at the time—the phone calls, the handshakes, the meetings. Or it could be a process that takes years to unfold. This is why we refer to members’ paths to board directorship as a journey. Because it’s personal, it’s unpredictable, and it usually takes you on a windy path versus a straight line to the top.

The journey-nature of the board interview process underscores the importance of what we call your Board Package. And really, it’s an essential tool for all executive women, even those who are not aspiring for board directorship. The Board Package consists of all the key elements that you’ll need as you make connections, interview for a board director position, or simply prepare for the next level of your career. A Board Package includes a bio, a resume, an elevator pitch and updates to your personal LinkedIn page. Each of these elements speaks to your board-readiness. They integrate with each other and work together to present the absolute best version of you.

 

Your Board Package Coaches:

Adriana Azuri is our in-house Board Package mastermind. She leads a team of writers that work with each and every Athena Alliance member, one-on-one, to form a customized Board Package.

She’s good at what she does—she brings more than 18 years of executive writing to our organization. Her career began as a technical writer, where she honed her skills working in heavily male-dominated industries. Technical writing also shaped her skill for capturing and communicating details. Effectively positioning executives for their next career moves: it’s what she does best.

“When I engage with members, I engage them based on the totality of the value they deliver to a board,” she says. “We want to convey through writing what they bring to the table. What is their wheelhouse?”

Adriana starts with the Resume or “CV”. She works with whatever materials members provide her. This may mean a resume simply needs a solid edit, or it may mean a barebones LinkedIn profile. Through a discovery process, she asks Athena members detailed questions about their career and experience.

“I need to know—very specifically—what is the budget she delivers to? What are her revenue goals? How many people does she manage? I narrow down to the specific business achievements. I want everything metrics-driven.”

This process takes time. It may take four to six weeks, or it could be a few months. Adriana will move at the pace you move. It’s a back-and-forth process of sharing information, reviewing several drafts, and working through the documents with an eye for perfection.

“Through this process of discovering about a member’s career, I can tell you who they are and what value they deliver or have delivered. I then outline a member’s overall career achievements to bring out the best of the best. It’s crystal clear to me who they are and what their strengths are.”

Adriana uses the resume as the foundation for the entire Board Package process. Once the resume is complete, she’s able to craft a Board Bio. This takes all the accomplishments in the resume and puts them in a narrative format. In parallel, she’ll update the member’s LinkedIn profile. The goal: everything should mirror each other and work together to portray our members as the powerhouse female executives that they are.

And finally, Adriana crafts an Elevator Pitch. She pulls out key accomplishments from a member’s resume— quantifiable achievements, specific examples—and uses them to create a totally custom elevator pitch. This is for members’ eyes only. Think of it as a personal script or advertisement for your leadership talent: it’s two to three sentences that take about 45 seconds to say.

 

‘Show me the money’

Adriana offers a unique perspective not just on resume-building, but on the psychology of positioning yourself to others as a top leader.

“One of the most common things I see women doing in their bios and resumes is that they don’t have the numbers. Instead, women tend to speak in attributes and adjectives. I’m this type of leader or that type of leader. But instead, they should be adding numbers and metrics to everything. Show me the money.”

The same goes for the Elevator Pitch. “It may be a confidence thing. It may be a culture thing. It may be a generational thing,” she said. “For example, one client felt like she was boasting in her resume. But then she had a meeting with a CEO and she noticed all the questions were related to money—revenue, sales. She realized the power of the Elevator Pitch and her Resume, and she was so glad she had them.”

 

Give CEOs and boards what they’re looking for

Adriana has worked with dozens of male executives throughout her career. She knows how they present themselves, how they speak, and how they talk about their achievements. They are confident, clear and commanding in speaking about their experience, accomplishments and what they can contribute to that next opportunity whether it’s a job position or a board of director role.

“Women need to get to that point,” she said. “Or the next Board seat will be a man. And it’s not that they’re not capable, it’s that they didn’t say what they did in their careers. This is not a time to be bashful.”

The first step to getting there? Your Board Package.