Looking at the Bigger Picture — William E. Oliver

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Being on a board requires a multifaceted approach to every situation. Corporate boards are under increasing pressure to diversify their ranks, mitigate risk, adapt to change, and constantly prepare for the future. Board members are scrutinized for their ‘readiness’ to understand complex businesses, employ effective governance, showcase technical know-how and create a long-term performance.

Will Oliver, enterprise risk manager, agile, visionary leader, and ambassador of positive change shares his experience on corporate and non-profit boards. He further dives into what qualities he brings to a board and how he applies them to different situations.

Will, a holistic approach is defined by looking at the ‘bigger picture’ — thinking of all those involved in a situation and weighing the pros and cons. This is a crucial quality when serving on a corporate board. We previously talked about your holistic perspective — toward stakeholders, employees, and communities alike. Can you share how you would use that capability in a corporate board?

“I think one of the challenging aspects of being on a board, profit or non-profit, is maintaining your holistic view, mission, and vision in an ever-changing world. I have learned this from my time volunteering on non-profit boards like the YMCA, and in various professional roles. In today’s challenging times, there is a lot of unease and unrest. One common theme I have noticed in the past few months is that people are willing to have open conversations, not just superficial ones. These conversations revolve around how we should drive toward a solution and effect change. I have found myself in the midst of such conversations in both my board positions.

“One of the qualities I bring to a board is looking at things from a broader perspective and from the vantage point of what really is our goal. If our goal is to understand and drive change, then I am the person who says we have to listen and have empathy. Change doesn’t mean changing someone, it oftentimes means understanding one another which will cause change to occur naturally. Most people struggle with uneasiness with respect to change; I bring that level of comfort around change.

“One of the things I saw my company struggle with is how and where to invest in the community. They need people to tell them honestly how their decisions will be received. This brings us back to the topics of honest feedback, reputation risk, and how the community feels. Often, large organizations make investments but the local community doesn’t feel the real impact — that’s important to know.

“So coming back to the conversations we were having on both boards I’m on, the things that need to be discussed are: what businesses should we get involved with, which community leaders can we connect with and what kind of meetings should we have? Along with this, we must listen to people internally as well. Not just through annual reports, but instead, through company town halls. People need to feel part of the decision-making process and there is no better way to do so.

“In conclusion, I think I am able to bring to a board the ability to be empathetic and extend grace. I urge people to listen to the sounds and tones in a room and truly understand goals. Another important quality I bring forth is the realization that success comes with accountability.”

Thank you for sharing, Will.

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