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7 Questions with Cheryl Hayman
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7 Questions with Cheryl Hayman
Name: Cheryl Hayman
Current title: Non-Executive Director
Current organization: Shriro Holdings Ltd.ASX:SHM) , HGL Ltd (ASX:HNG), Chartered Accountants Aust and NZ, Darlinghurst Theatre Co, and Peer Support Australia.I’m also a Member of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Digital Experts Advisory Committee, as well as an elected HCF Councillor.
Cheryl is an experienced Non-Executive Director and has served on ASX Listed, public unlisted, start-up and not-for-profit boards. Cheryl has experience in Chairing Nomination and Remuneration Committees and membership of Finance, Audit and Risk committees. Cheryl’s skills are proven to adapt across a breadth of sectors, including consumer goods, bioscience, investment B2B, agribusiness, retailing, education, professional services and the arts.
She has a keen interest in the listed corporate sector, as well as IPO and pre-IPO businesses in emerging and maturing industries. She is keen and driven to join companies in growing sectors with an eye to transformational growth and a culture of strong values with an outwardly positioned purpose.
Cheryl utilises her non-traditional path to the Boardroom, diverse perspective and leadership experience to guide companies wanting to grow through diversification and innovation. She is passionate about using digital transformation to achieve growth at scale and deliver real customer outcomes and business results.
Cheryl had a lengthy and successful global marketing career in multinational consumer- facing organisations.
1. What have you found most challenging as a board member?
Board directors need to be agile and flexible, yet pragmatic and sensible with an ability to adapt, make decisions and juggle the diverse needs of all stakeholders within a highly compliant and regulated environment.
The role of a board member comes with many responsibilities and significant accountability. There are many challenges, not always difficult challenges, but they are different. Unlike most roles where you’re employed to do a specific job, a Board Director has to have an eye on the overall performance, processes and people across the organisation while juggling external viewpoints of shareholders or members. At the same time we need to ensure compliance and comprehensive risk management to enable good ethical and legal governance. It requires, at times, for a Board to make decisions not easily understood by the people in the business and with that in mind, we also need excellent communication skills.
A Board Director is not an operational role, so we need to trust management, apply a high level of curiosity in seeking answers and information, while we maintain a steady and pragmatic hand in guiding the organisation to a sustainable future. Some of the most important challenges for Board Directors are managing the diverse stakeholder views. There are external stakeholders seeking returns, management requires support for their initiatives, their ideas and their strategies, plus employees who should be provided with career paths and professional development, but also want to work in a strong business which supports their needs and provides a culture they can be proud of. Business is made up of individuals, so balancing the needs, desires and motivations of individuals requires a good Board Director to take a balanced approach to the human aspects of business while maintaining a strong eye on the financial sustainability and growth strategies of the business.
2. How did you become a board member? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I left the corporate world and my final role was CMO for George Weston Foods. I loved that job but I decided that rather than stay climbing the corporate ladder I’d jump out and do strategic consulting so I could get greater flexibility and variety in my work. Two years later I added to that a desire to follow a board path and I began to build out my portfolio career. I’m very proud of the boardroom career I’ve achieved over the past 12 years.
At the start, I opted for some professional development through the Australian Institute of Company Directors and Women on Boards to determine what I did and didn’t know, so I could fill any perceived gaps between being a corporate senior leader and a non-executive director. This was especially crucial around aspects of governance and risk, which provide much needed frameworks in any board role.
Through my work, reputation and connections, in 2007 I was appointed to a publicly listed Board, Clover Corporation, as well as a not-for-profit, Peer Support Australia. Since then I’ve held many, varied roles, and today I have experience and expertise across public listed, unlisted, government and not-for-profit boards in a wide and diverse number of sectors. I love continuous education and keeping abreast of the regular changes in the business world and the regulatory landscape continually growing professionally in various non-executive director roles as well as doing a lot of learning with my love of continuous education.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My days are varied. Some hectic, some more relaxed and less routine. That’s what I like. The variety, the flexibility, the different challenges.
My morning routine is generally the one part of my day that is consistent. I make a big cup of tea when I wake up, then I check my emails and move onto my socials, starting with LinkedIn. It’s become my “go to” place for daily business updates and insights.
Then I’ll be on Zoom for meetings or dive into work activities, depending what’s on for the day and the next few days. I’ll also prepare for important meetings, interviews or other items requiring my focus and presentation.
It’s not uncommon for me to meet with someone, whether it’s in person or online. This might be informal mentoring or meeting someone who’s asked me to discuss their career and aspirations and to learn from my journey. Other times it may be that I reached out to a fellow director or a Chair and we meet so I can learn from them, give them a sense of me and discuss any advice they might be able to provide.
I usually make a few phone calls and do a lot of business reading throughout the day.
It’s also not uncommon for me to work after hours, I take calls as necessary and do more social media during the evening.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
We are neck high in a cyber data breach right now for one of the Boards I’m on. This has called for new and significant focus on certain areas of leadership from the Board.
As a Director an event like this throws a lot of unknowns your way. It requires you to gather the facts, surround the business with experts in relevant areas, understand what’s been breached and the impacts on the business, then help support management as they analyse, repair and rebuild the data. The communication piece is also crucial. It requires deep thinking, debating, collegiality and consistent messaging and transparency between all internal and external parties.
5. What are some of the keys to doing governance well in an organisation?
The first step is actually knowing what good governance looks like. Ensuring you stay abreast of the ever changing governance and compliance legislation is incumbent on every director in today’s highly scrutinised world. Personal responsibility is enormous, so it’s risky to assume it isn’t important or that there are things you don’t need to know.
The element that I believe is essential is to read a lot. I read about other companies, their mis-steps, their successes and I bring it together with a focus on being open to learn from the outside as well as the inside of your particular organisation/s.
As a director, I also believe it’s vital to take what you know from lived experiences and share them openly and willingly with other organisations.
It’s important to continually question decisions, results and other aspects of the business against a governance framework. Businesses must ensure they have up to date policies and measures in place to report against, and plans to rectify or evolve in areas where there are gaps that need attention. This ensures the business and the board can operate at the highest level of governance.
6. How do you differentiate between the role of board member and the roles of CEO or executive team member of an organisation?
Directors have ultimate oversight and responsibility for the financial performance of the organisation, the health, safety and security of the employees all the while being conscious of the culture and values of the organisation and providing guidance and experience to add value and assist the CEO and senior management particularly.
It’s important that directors don’t get into the minutiae (unless a very specific one off requirement is requested) and that they don’t get operational. As the Board has singular responsibility for hiring and firing the CEO it’s crucial that this appointment is done thoroughly, the CEO is well supported, and that their KPIs reflect where the Board wants the maximum financial and strategic focus to be.
Directors also have to be completely across compliance and governance and risk at all times. They have to set the framework and policies and monitor the processes around the key items, through the CEO and exec team.
Directors are accountable to shareholders and appropriate communications and disclosures to the market and key stakeholders are essential at all times. There is a lot of relationship management, at a level that’s different to the CEO and exec team.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a board member so far?
It was when I was on a Board dealing with a whistleblowing situation. I have been through this twice, in completely different sectors and with very different claims.
It’s a very tricky situation as a Board is dealing with personal and emotional actions and outcomes. The Board has a duty to do a forensic analysis of the information provided, whether it’s financial or behavioural, while being conscious of the reputations of all parties.
In both instances we had to juggle needing to be certain we weren’t assuming anything. However, at the same time we were assuring the whistleblower of the seriousness with which we were acting while managing expectations that you can’t determine a final course of action until all the facts are derived. Of course, maintaining the privacy of all named parties was also mandatory. It’s a highly charged, complex and fragile event to manage.
In both instances, governance and employment law provided enormous help. Engaging external experts was another essential process to manage the events to the right outcome. Both these events were a steep learning experience for me.