Changing the Face of the Boardroom: Lisa Smith
In this interview series, we take a look at life as a ‘non traditional’ board member and the benefits they bring to boards and organisations.
Today’s profile is Lisa Smith. Lisa is a vibrant former underwater hockey player who also happens to be an adventurer in life, business and tax! Anyone who gets that excited about tax, I just had to learn more. Here’s my interview with Lisa.
What board(s) do you sit on?
I currently sit on the board of Sport SA. Previously I have held board positions with the Himalayan Development Foundation, FWS ( finding working solutions), and Eye Play Sport.
What is unique about you as a board member (e.g. non-traditional profession, culturally diverse, gender, age, unusual organisation, etc)?
I have a sense of adventure and curiosity to try new and different things. This helps me to bring a different perspective that balances my more traditional professional qualifications (being tax).
Life experiences help distinguish me from the crowd and help me to connect with the cause and purpose of an organisation. Whether it’s living and working in a third world country, travelling through remote wilderness, representing my country at an elite sporting level or climbing a mountain, the people I meet and the experiences I share shape me as a person and help me to bring different perspectives and understandings to the boardroom table.
How did you get your board seats?
For the Sport SA Board I responded to a Board Vacancy advertisement. Having represented Australia at an elite level in the Sport of Underwater Hockey I immediately connected with the purpose and objectives of the organisation, and knew I could bring that experience to the Board table. I was also excited at the potential opportunity.
My other board seats were through a variety of means including networking events, platforms connecting boards with candidates, and through business connections and referrals.
How does your uniqueness benefit the board / organisation?
For every board I’ve sat on I’ve felt a personal connection to the purpose and objective of that organisation. I bring a combination of my life experiences and commercial qualifications to the table – my experiences enable me to contextualise my professional opinion/experiences in the context of what is most relevant to the particular organisation.
What has your experience on a board been like? Do you feel that your differences are a benefit or a hindrance?
My board experiences have been both challenging and extremely rewarding.
A good functioning board, embraces differences in thinking and perspectives. As long the values of other board members align with my values, and differences are respected, I always feel my differences are a benefit.
But that doesn’t always mean that I might be the right fit or the best person for a particular board at a particular time. Knowing and reflecting on the benefits I can bring a board help me to both determine which organisations I want to be a part of, and when the time is right for others to take my place to bring their own uniqueness and freshness to the boardroom table.
What advice would you give to people in a similar situation to you?
Understand what motivates you. What are you interested in? Does a board/the organisation’s objective excite you or drive you to make a difference?
Irrespective of whether the board appointment is unpaid or paid, a board role takes time and commitment – so you need to really believe in /connect with the role.
Identify what it is you can bring to the board table and truly believe you can bring value. If you don’t believe, the other prospective board members won’t feel it.
Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn.
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About changing the face of the boardroom
Many times I am told by aspiring board members that they feel like they are not qualified for the boardroom, or that they have nothing to offer. Much of this self-opinion comes from the perception that is reinforced in messages about the boardroom; you have to be old, connected, conservative, and extremely educated to be on a board.
I call BS on this!
I am certain that there are many wonderful board members out there who don’t fit the traditional “pale and stale” stereotype of company directors / board members. People who came to the boardroom along the path less travelled, with a unique career background or because of some rare characteristic that has proved invaluable for an organisation.
I know they’re out there and I want to profile them to show aspiring directors that they do have something to offer. That the boardroom is somewhere they can thrive and give back; and that their uniqueness can have extraordinary value to an organisation. I want organisations and people everywhere to know it too.