From big boss to the board table
Leadership skills are the same whether you’re working in the state sector or for a large multinational company, says former managing director of IBM New Zealand, Jennifer Moxon.
After a long executive career, Moxon, is currently branching out into governance, with an observer’s seat on the board of state-owned enterprise Transpower New Zealand.
Moxon, who has the 12-month position through the Institute of Directors’ Future Directors programme, gets to participate in board meetings, but not vote.
She joined the programme after returning to New Zealand last year following a stint offshore. “I wanted to re-establish my local network. It was suggested to me that Future Directors might be a good re-entry point into the New Zealand market, as well as a way for me to get some experience as a non-executive director.”
She says her long and varied executive career was the perfect entrée into governance. “Leadership is all about how you motivate people and inspire your people. If you have the right teams and skills in place, the business generally happens. Having an engaged and empowered team is a great way of getting things done.”
Having an executive background has also proven helpful when it comes to interpreting management presentations to the board. “I can understand why they might be presenting in a particular way, and can ask ‘is there another way I should be looking at this?’”
Moxon began her stint on Transpower’s board in November last year. For the first six months in the role, the board’s deputy chair Don Huse was her official mentor. “They really took my induction seriously, which I very much appreciated.” Huse has since stepped down from the board, so Moxon now turns to the wider board for advice if she needs it. “If I’ve got a question I want to ask, or I am seeking on a particular subject, for example, health and safety, I’ll go to a board member who is a specialist in that area.”
Looking to the future
Working at IBM for nearly two decades meant reinvention has been a key part of her career. “If you look at IBM’s history, we started out in hardware, we moved into software and then into consultancy services. We were always looking to remake the way we delivered our services to customers.”
“With the ‘consumerisation’ of technology, particularly under the guide of artificial intelligence and digital, this means that technology has gone mainstream,” Moxon says. “It is no longer about business and coding, it’s in the homes and the hands of most of the developed world. We’re even wearing it. What excites me is that technology no longer remains a separate domain.”
She’s finding this background in transformation and reinvention helpful in her work at Transpower, as the energy company looks at how it does business in light of growing awareness about climate change. “People are becoming a lot more aware about the impact of climate change and working towards a decarbonised future and economy. I enjoy working in an environment that continues to carve and pave a way ahead and remakes the way that they are doing business.”
“My view is that it doesn’t matter what size organisation you are, you need to continue to look at what you’re doing to reinvent yourself for the future.”
Moxon is keen to be a part of the reinvention of New Zealand’s broader business landscape as well.
“I’m really passionate about the rebalancing of the economy, from basically milk powder and agriculture to a multi-faceted skills-based industry. What are going to be New Zealand’s next five Fonterras?”
As well as her Transpower placement, Moxon is also a Beachheads Advisor at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and a council member at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.