Networking, Wine and Buffet Dinner with Delicious Cuisine: 6:00pm – 6:30pm
Program: 6:30 – 7:45 pm
Post-program Buffet Reception: 7:45 – 8:45pm
Gender diversity increases corporate bottom lines and enhances board effectiveness. Women fuel a huge amount of our economy and have clear insights into purchasing motivations and customer experiences that can drive business strategies and long-term company profitability. Yet, women struggle to land board positions. Why?Are qualified women hard to find? Are men being left out of the conversation?
Join your fellow directors in an interactive conversation with one of the nation's most highly recognized business and governance women leaders, Linda Rabbitt, chairman and CEO of rand* corporation. Jim Schleckser will serve as program moderator, helping to spotlight the governance imperatives in this high-profile topic from a 360-degree perspective.
The business benefits of diversity
Strategically positioning yourself for board service
How to earn your right to be on a board
Your board brand
How to think about board service in your portfolio
A full house at the Congressional Country Club was treated to a fireside chat with Linda Rabbitt, CEO of rand* construction corporation and board member for Willis Towers Watson, who told her story of rising from a secretarial position to that of a highly sought-after public company director. Moderated by Jim Schleckser, CEO, Inc. CEO Project, and NACD Capital Area Chapter incoming chairman, the discussion ranged from Ms. Rabbitt’s personal story to advice on seeking a board seat and being an effective board member once seated.
An English and American history teacher by training, Ms. Rabbitt found herself in need of a new career following a divorce. She took a position as a secretary at KPMG, soon rising to support the firm’s managing partner. She continued to advance, running the marketing department for five years before a female colleague raised the idea of starting a construction firm—an idea that eventually turned into *rand construction.
Committed to her local business community, Ms. Rabbitt volunteered for business-related associations, rising to become chairman of them. She learned an early lesson, that showing leadership in volunteer roles can pay dividends, resulting in opportunities to make the leap from nonprofit leadership to for-profit leadership. “If you are going to be involved in something,” she said, “really be involved.” Too many directors join nonprofit boards without really doing the work, but she rolled up her sleeves, following her father’s early advice to “always leave places better than how you found them.”
Ms. Rabbitt’s philosophies were put to the test when she joined a nonprofit board where trouble was brewing. Once in place, she realized that the organization’s revenue and membership were down. Faced with a choice to either “let it fail or fix it,” Ms. Rabbitt took on the challenge and made positive change over time.
An opportunity to join a company board resulted from Ms. Rabbitt’s community engagement. In fact, she had gotten to know Barbara Franklin through the International Women’s Forum, where Ms. Rabbitt held a leadership position. When Ms. Franklin rolled off the board of the company now known as Willis Towers Watson, she recommended that Ms. Rabbitt be her replacement. Ms. Rabbitt joined the board, and stayed—and learned—as the relatively young public company discovered the ins and outs of being public. Since then, Ms. Rabbitt has been on many more boards, creating a wide expertise in board service across various organization types.
Ms. Rabbitt offered sage advice for those who wish to join company boards:
Have a strategy (and hope is not a strategy). Get involved in business groups. Take on leadership roles. Get to know others by connecting over shared activities such as golf.
Be honest with yourself. If you are going after board positions because of the money, your strategy will never work. If you are doing so because you are eager to learn and expand your intellectual experience, you have a shot.
In your career, always give others permission to give you honest feedback, as men tend to get more feedback than women.
Develop a board-ready résumé, which should have a different focus than a traditional résumé. Be sure board-centric skills are clearly spotlighted, so what you can contribute is obvious.
Be open to mentors, who will usually find you if the fit is right. Ms. Rabbitt’s mentor was the managing partner of KPMG.
Don’t overcommit to nonprofit boards. Be sure you can do the work.
Be memorable by doing the hard things when you serve.
Develop a high EQ to match your high IQ.
Consider targeting local companies that you can network your way into.
Look for a life partner who will support your plans.
For those who are successful and become a director, she offered additional advice:
Nose in; fingers out.
Be nice to the staff and get to know the concerns of senior management.
Do your homework.
Build relationships with fellow board members. This will happen naturally as the board deals with issues under high-pressure situations.
Have the courage of your convictions on issues such as CEO succession and corporate strategy.
Learn to talk so that others will hear you. Garner support for your positions from other board members; a sole board member’s view rarely carries the day.
Remember that one woman on a board can be marginalized, but two to four women on a board cannot.
Ms. Rabbitt shared how she is helping other women reach success, backing programs for women at Harvard and George Washington University, where she was a long-tenured trustee. “Learning and teaching are natural cycles in life,” she said. “Now I can help teach others.”
The NACD Capital Area Chapter thanks its sponsors for their support of the 2017–2018 program year and looks forward to resuming its programming with an all-new lineup of programs in September.
Linda Rabbitt is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of rand* construction corporation, a national commercial construction company with annual sales in excess of $300 million. Under Ms. Rabbitt's leadership and strategic vision, rand* has grown from a small tenant interiors firm with a staff of 7 to a national multi-market commercial construction company with a technically skilled and diverse staff of over 290 individuals. The company has been recognized as a "Best Places to Work" by the Washington Business Journal and Washingtonian Magazine’s "Great Places to Work" for more than a decade.
Ms. Rabbitt is the Past Lead Director of Towers Watson (Watson Wyatt), for which NACD honored her as "Director of the Year" and the Washington Business Journal named her an "Outstanding Director", in recognition of her exceptional service and vital leadership. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of Willis Towers Watson and the Economic Club of Washington. Linda is a past Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the Federal City Council, and the Greater Washington Board of Trade. She also served on the board of Brookfield Properties, a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management. Ms. Rabbitt led the Harvard Business School Executive MBA efforts to create a Women on Boards program, which commenced in 2017.
Jim is the CEO of the Inc. CEO Project and helps leaders grow companies. He specializes in the issues that fast growth firms experience in their business models, talent, processes and systems as they reach higher levels of performance. Jim and his team work with over 100 CEOs of high growth companies to identify and obliterate the things that stand between them and continued organizational success.
With 30 years of leadership in business, he brings experience in leading global organizations in both public and private environments across many functional areas to the table. His ideas have been translated into 9 languages and he has done business in over 27 countries.
Jim Schleckser is the author of the best selling published book, "Great CEOs are Lazy", detailing the behaviors that make the difference in CEO performance. His insight is sought by dozens of CEOs of growth companies around the country.
He has a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Delaware and an MBA in Marketing and Finance from the University of Connecticut. He serves on the board of Defenders as the Chair of Talent & Compensation and previously as the Chair of Governance and Nominating. He also serves on the board of Daniel Defense and Youth with a Mission - San Pedro, DR. He has previously served on the board of Hanover Research.