Today you are in for an absolute treat.
Today you get to meet Louise Brockman.
Louise is the c e o and founder
of the Advisory Board Center, the
worldwide organization dedicated to
supporting advisory boards, advisory
board leaders, advisory board chairs,
research around this whole topic.
And in this conversation, you're
gonna learn some amazing things.
Louise is such a, I
believe, a profound thinker.
She's a researcher who practices stuff.
She digs in, she creates, she
plays in this world, but she comes
up with just the most amazing,
thinking around advisory boards and
really leads the world in doing this.
I have had the privilege of knowing
Louise for just under a year.
I learned about the Advisory Board
Center, actually took the certification
process to become an advisory board
chair, and today I get to talk to the og.
You're gonna learn more about
that as we have this conversation.
But buckle up.
I know this is going to be a good
Welcome to the Advisory
Board Insider Podcast.
I am extraordinarily
delighted you're here.
It's lovely to
be here to,
yeah, it's great.
So what are your geographic coordinates
I actually dunno.
Well, well I live in Brisbane, Queensland,
Australia, so, Do you have actually
the coordinates on, on that, Tom?
No, I don't, but I just, you know, I
just wanted to check where you are today.
'cause I know that you travel a fair
amount, so I'm just checking in on that
and because I know it's morning there.
What's your morning drink of choice?
What do you start the day
Actually, the start of my day
now is a lemon ginger tea.
It's nice and refreshing and no caffeine
before 10 o'clock, so I get the jitters.
Oh, are you on that plan now?
On the new, no caffeine
Yes, that's right.
So I, I just ease my way into the day
rather than, you know, punch my way short.
So you get up and you start with tea.
Lemon Ginger, you said.
So what's, what's your morning look like?
I, I'm always intrigued by the
morning routine of high performers.
And so what's your
morning routine look like?
Does it start with, I don't know what
it starts with, that's why I'm asking.
Well, it depends where I am.
So if I'm working from home, I'll
start, I'll jump outta bed and start
my calls at six in the morning.
'cause we do a lot of work.
In the US and Canada.
And so those early morning morning
calls are what starts my day.
If I'm working in the city at the
office, I get up at half past four in
the morning, drive in for the city, I
walk for a half an hour to get to the
office, so I don't park in the city.
So it forces me to walk and enjoy
the beautiful sunrise, and then
I start my day at six o'clock.
So that gives us a, a sense of how you
start things and what you start with.
But I always like to always get
a sense of, of who I'm talking
to in terms of their story.
So take me back to your 11 or
12 year in high school, and
I'm not sure I said that right.
It's sometimes called 11th or 12th.
You'll have to confirm that.
But tell me back then,
what are you thinking?
What are you dreaming?
What are you hoping to do with your life?
was actually a very full life.
Uh, so I lived in northern part of
Queensland on the Great Barrier Reef and
my parents owned a resort and I was going
to school in in another town, but I was
pretty much working full-time since the
age of 13 to put myself through school.
And so I was not studying that hard.
I was working hard to go to school to.
It was, uh, a bit of a ride
actually supporting my parents
in their, in their business.
As you know, most most family businesses
are children are great slave labor.
Oh, but what a, what a great opportunity
to learn from my parents directly.
So it was really valuable,
more valuable to me than school
And so the resort, was that a
combination of restaurant and
hotel and things like that?
The So what, what was the
It was in a beautiful part of the world
called Mission Beach, and it's this
beautiful aqua blue water and that was
very, very heavy ancient rainforests
that goes right down to the sea.
So they're beautiful, beautiful forests.
Um, cassa birds, which are endangered.
And just a, a glorious part of the world.
So very, very blessed
to be able to be there.
So what were
you dreaming of at that point?
I know you had a rich life and all this
stuff, and you slave labor and you're
part of this community obviously, but
what are you thinking of for your life?
What's, what are you imagining
your future will look like?
I think at that time I was
probably just dreaming of being
free and going to a party.
Uh, so having a bit of downtime
was, was kind of probably my, my
biggest ambition at that time.
But I loved being so immersed
in what I was doing and.
People, you know, it was, the
resort was all about people and
being a host and yeah, creating
great experiences for other people.
And I loved that.
And you know, when, when I turned 19,
I started my first business and it
was a, it was a restaurant and that
background that I had from my family
enabled me to be able to, to do that.
And I loved it.
Absolutely love, love that.
So was that connected to the resort
or did you go somewhere else and build
this restaurant that's this new venture
It was, uh, I did a business
deal with my parents and bought
on a business partner as a chef.
We actually, we got hit by a cyclone or a
hurricane, I think you, you called them.
We lost everything and I couldn't
afford to go to university and
I couldn't get a job somewhere
else, so I knew the business.
So I, I did a deal with
my parents and leased the.
And had that business for about
two years, uh, which was terrific.
It was hard work that I learned so
much about business at that stage.
what was the biggest lesson looking
back that you took out of that
two year stint in the restaurant?
What was the thing that most sticks
You choose your business
Uh, so where did you go from there?
You're, you finished this two years
and I, you know, I've looked at your
LinkedIn resume and there's, there's
these interesting gaps because you're a
rock star in so many parts of your life,
and then there's this gap between, I.
The restaurant and some of
the bigger things you did.
So where did you go in
the middle of all that?
What, what happened?
I, I stayed in the, in the
resorts industry, uh, and managed
restaurants in, in resorts.
And then we took up a role with
Qantas and Qantas had acquired
another airline that had five island
resorts as part of the operations.
And so I looked after the, the
HR component of these island
resorts on the Great Barrier Reef.
I became general manager on Dunk
Island and Great Kepp Island
resorts, so I actually lived on
the islands managing those island
resorts for, for quite a few years.
I've still got many friends that
they, when we worked there, and
it was an exciting time of my life
because when you're managing an
island resort, you're not managing a
business, you're managing a community.
It was there guests, there're
staff who are living.
And working together and sleeping
together and doing all that sort of stuff.
And then there's the airstrip,
there's the sewage treatment plant.
There's everything barges,
there's, there's everything
else that goes with it, right?
And so, Just such an exciting, an exciting
time that, that I left when Qantas sold
those island resorts and, and did my, my
masters and my thesis was on the future
of human resources, and I got what got
out of corporate hr not long after that
because I was just really itching to get
back into my own business, which was back
in 2001 when I started, my first iteration
of my, the last business that I had.
So I've been in business ever since.
So when along the way did the inclination
to be a deep researcher show up?
Like when did that desire or love of
research become a part of your psyche?
Or was it always there when, when you
were a kid where you were researcher?
When did that become part of it?
I was never a researcher as a kid,
I was a listener, and so I'm a
better listener than I'm a talker.
I'm much more comfortable
being a listener and.
When I was in Qantas, there was a
particular behavior that I saw with
the managers on the different islands
when I was supporting all the general
managers before I became one myself.
And I would go onto one island and I
would see that the, the staff would mimic.
The leader, leader that would
have a very similar sort of style.
And you go into another island and their
behavior was mimicking their leaders.
And I guess in a micro environment,
everything's magnified, right?
So you can just, you come into
this, this culture and just go,
wow, isn't this interesting?
So I actually asked Qantas at
the time, can I research group
sync in isolated environments?
And they said, sure.
So I just started my outta my own
curiosity about what, what happens
with leadership styles and their
relationship with employees in these
isolated environments like island
resorts, like hospitals in remote areas.
It's just very interesting
You have in those, those environments.
And that really started my, my journey.
I could have picked a, a, a
simpler topic to start with.
And so when I, um, moved into this
business, um, the last business, and
I really enjoyed doing my, my thesis,
I realized that human resources
in the small and medium sized
business sector is very different.
To that in the core environments.
And actually in my research that I
did with my thesis was called the
Future of HR Shape Up or Ship Out.
So I, I just found, uh, the role
of human resources in the corporate
sector just really numbing.
And so when I, when I was building
these models for HR, for the business
sector, can't just dumb down what
happens in a corporate environment.
So how is it different?
You can't bring in these systems that
are going to constrain a business since I
thought, well, I wanna really understand
the relationship between an employer and
its employees in the business market,
and so what's it like to work with or
for an entrepreneur and how, how does
that shape the relationship and the
underlying processes that that under.
So in 2002, started a research piece.
Why some businesses achieved
their strategy and others don't.
It was based on 5,000
businesses back then.
Took me two years to do it.
And out of that, certain models, like the
strategic action model came out of it.
There was a model that I ended
up patenting, uh, which is about
measurement of organizational capability.
All of that came out
of that, that research.
So the research base for me is about, I
think people do research for two things.
One is they wanna prove a.
The other is that they
wanna find something.
And so I wanna find something that,
I don't know, I wanna discover this
little nugget that it's been overlooked
or missed or not not understood.
And then what do you do with that?
So research without a purpose
to do something with is just, I
don't know, it's wasting time.
So I, I love the concept of living
research, not for a PhD, that by the
time it's published, it's old, it's done.
It's about, this is the living research,
what we know now, what do we do with
that, that's gonna make a difference.
And so that's been my, my research pathway
that, that the next big research piece was
between 2008 and 2016 on 26,000 employees.
And also during that time I researched
430 consulting, uh, firms in 17 countries.
To evaluate what's the future
of the consulting sector.
And that's when I really discovered
the democratization of advice was
coming down the pipeline in a big way.
Um, which reinforced the
other research that was being
done around advisory boards.
And so research for me is just
satisfying my curiosity and given me
license to play and create new things.
Oh, that's delightful.
Before we get into the advisory
board side of it, just gimme a sense.
So you get all this research on hr,
the way people think, the island, you
know, the leadership in these small
communities, and then entrepreneurs
and you build HR Coach International, I
believe that was the name of the company.
Ultimately, what was it?
Was it a HR consulting firm?
What was HR Coach
It was an outsourced HR solution
for business for the small and
medium-sized business sector.
So the average size of a business
with an out outsourced hr.
It's sort of like what CFO
services are today worldwide.
Between, you know, 25 to 45
employees or 75 employees.
That's kind of like, that's the homeland
for an outsourced, um, HR professional.
So that I built the methodology, we
developed a software package for it.
We then built out a network of licensees,
uh, so that they could then build the HR
coaching services to businesses in their
own regions or in their own markets.
This was absolutely, I didn't realize
it at the time, but probably about
65, 70% of our licensees were women
and also women in regional areas.
So where normally they can't have
a professional career in that way.
In, in smaller communities, we're
able to really empower women to
have their own business and, and
use, uh, in a professional capacity.
And have that balance, that
work-life balance that that many,
you know, have to have with families.
And so that had global application
in that business model and something,
you know, we're really proud
of and rumor has it that it took
off and did some really cool
Yeah, we, we, we built that to 135 offices
in eight countries in a five year period.
So that was, uh, a lot of work actually.
I thought it was a lot of work
until I'm doing what I'm doing now.
Now this is a lot of work, but, um,
at the time I thought, yeah, I, I was
working pretty hard, but, um, yeah,
when I sold that business, it was
time to do that and I think I slept
for a year to, to recover from that
experience, the choice to exit was
because it reached that certain.
Place where it just made sense
to hand it off or to sell it.
I, is that
sort of the what happened?
It was, it was time to pass.
It was time to pass it on.
And I, I don't want
one thing to define me.
For my whole life, I've always moved
on to new things and always excited
about doing, doing new things.
And so for me it was, I could see when,
when I was researching around the HR
component, I was actually researching
entrepreneurship in the business market.
So we commercialized the HR side of
that research, but I had this, all, this
other body of research that was not being
used and had capacity to do something
with, and I was deeply curious about
what I could do something with that.
I've, I've heard a number
of interviews with you.
I've obviously been part of, you
know, your trainings and I've
learned enough to know that.
HR Coach International, you have all
this research and you've got this
knowledge of stuff, but over on the
other side, you actually have an advisory
board as part of HR International.
And so was there some kind of thing
that connected for you back when
you were still in HR International?
Where the usage or employing an
advisory board, but also your
research somehow started percolating.
This next idea, was it then, or was
it after you had rested for a year?
actually started in 2002 when that
original research around strategic
action about why some businesses
achieve their strategy and others don't.
One of the key elements that I found
in that there was a difference in
characteristic is businesses that
are running around where their
activity is not driving a strategic
outcome is that they were addicted
to making decisions on the run.
So gonna make a decision.
It's, it's so addictive versus
businesses that were in the pathway
to achieve strategic growth in a
really considered way is that they
weren't focusing on decision making.
They were focusing on problem solving.
So whoever put problem solving and
decision making together, it it, I don't
dunno how that happened because they're
actually two very different constructs.
So when you focus on the problem
solving piece, and this is what I found
in that research, but it started in
2002 and really understood by 2004,
is that when you focus on problem
solving, evaluating options, right?
And so the decision
generally reveals itself.
So that was the start of that.
I then had some businesses that I was
supporting and they said, oh, This is
great, this HR coaching type work that
you're doing, can you chair our board?
And, and I said, well, no,
actually, yeah, I, I wouldn't,
wouldn't know how to do that.
I, I didn't have enough experience
or insight to, to do that.
I cared about them, right?
Which is why they asked, I really
deeply cared about what they were doing,
which is why they built that trust.
But for me, that wasn't enough to go into.
To do something that I was
not experienced in at all.
But then when we wanted to grow the, the
business, the HR coaching model beyond
the software, where previously when I'd
commercialized that software, I misjudged
the market and had to celebrating that
I owned to keep that business going.
A year later when we had the
opportunity to really build
out this, this global model.
I didn't wanna make that
same kind of mistake again.
I wanted to be really confident in
the decisions that I was making, and
I decided to have an advisory board.
I didn't really know what one was,
but I knew I needed and I wanted
quality people around me so I could
step up and be account held, account
two people that I deeply admired.
I didn't wanna lose control
of the business that I've
worked so hard to build.
And so that advisory board was perfect
for me to be able to do that, and
that's when it was life changing for me.
So that personal deep experience I had
with the advisory board, at the same time,
there was a research that I was doing
around things like business succession
planning and seeing how businesses
were managing for either stepping up in
their business or to managing an exit.
There's a natural planning cycle
around 18 months and 90 day planning.
And so this was another cue to me about
management of cycles of decision making.
And now all of that just evolved to the
point when I'd sold that business that I
thought there's actually something here.
That needs to be deeply explored and I
need to go and find out what other people
are doing in this space as well, because
I only had my own direct experience.
But in that, in that research that
I did, then over that five years,
found that there was no professional
body looking after the sector at all.
Advisory boards had been around
since the beginning of time.
You know, queen Elizabeth the first had a
privy council, and in her opening speech
she said, you know, I want my advisors
around me, but don't tell me what to do.
You look at the, the, that's not a direct
translation, by the way, but Right, right.
That's the essence of what
she was talking about.
And so advisory boards have been around
since beginning of time, but it's not
being put together as a profession
and go, why, who's supporting this?
All I was.
And so that was, you know, six and
a half years ago when we'd finished
our pilot testing and, and taken
on that role to be the professional
body, to not control the market.
You know, I understood.
The control mechanism from having a
licensing business previously, you
can't control a sector like this.
It's, it's highly fragmented,
so we decided to support it by
building a professional body
instead, rather than running it as a
Okay, that's really helpful.
So you are spending five years in
research and what, can you gimme a sense
of the research of advisory boards,
like the kind of focus that you took?
You kind of mentioned it earlier, you
ran through pretty quickly, but what,
what were you, 'cause I how you said
research is you like finding stuff.
So what were you going looking
for when you started doing this
research on advisory boards?
I mean, you had this history,
this experience, the HR factors.
Like what you're seeing there,
decisions versus problem solving.
But when you go out and do this,
this extensive research on this
advisory board space, what kind of
things are you trying to figure out?
What, what were the paths that you got
led down or you, you felt focused on
And so not, not going
down into one pathway.
You've gotta have you triangulate
information to be able to look at
the market from different viewpoints.
As well as being really cognizant
of your own personal bias.
I think that's really important,
especially when you're doing
immersion type research, which is
the way I like to do it, where you
throw yourself in your own your,
you are your own crash test dummy.
Then you go in and, and people
were naturally asking me to
chair their advisory board 'cause
they saw what it did for me.
So they said, I want what you are having,
you know, so, so it was that kind.
Kind of thing.
So I was learning from my own.
Only experience from sharing
six advisory boards while I was
backpacking around the world.
I, I learned from that too, the, the value
of virtual advisory boards since 2012.
Models, um, chairing advisory boards by
Skype At the time Zoom wasn't around then.
Good old Skype.
Good old Skype.
I was, I was chairing advisory boards
at two o'clock in the morning back
for businesses back here in Australia.
And I remember the biggest, the
biggest challenge that I had was
trying to find the internet, trying
to, trying to get internet working
at two o'clock in the morning.
It's only way, there were a
few adventures around that.
So, so there's that, the
emotion piece and then there
was the consulting piece around.
400 consulting firms and evaluating
how they were providing services, where
the barriers were, where the cliff
was in, in grosser consulting firms,
what was coming down the pipeline.
So interviewing leaders of consulting
firms as well as people who were
advisors and establishing advisory
boards and having that interview.
Qualitative analysis was,
was around getting all those
experiences, I guess, into one pool
of information at the same time.
At the same time.
I was developing models and testing
them on myself and on others.
Right around the ethical boundaries
between the role of the chair, the
role of an advisor, the role of the
consultant, the role of the director
and investors, and so through that, the
red then being able to really see there
are really interesting ethical dilemmas.
When advisory boards are not done well,
and one of the things that we're finding
in our research now is this critical role
in corporatized advisory boards around
the role of an advisory board manager.
So you don't want an advisory
board being free range inside a
business creating chaos, right?
So there's gotta be.
Constructs around it to maximize the value
of what goes into the advisory board, and
then what comes out of the advisory board.
Uh, so that value gets created, but
then needs to be translated so that
you get your return on your investment.
So this research where it started, Back
then in 2012, it, it will never end.
It'll be a gift that keeps on
Yeah, it sounds like it.
And it sounds like it's, it's a lot
of work, but it's a delightful work.
So I'm intrigued though by where,
in your brain or where in your
psyche do these things that you
go, oh, I gotta look over there.
'cause you're, you're involved in
this advisory board and you, you
go, I gotta figure out the role
of the chair because so many.
Places that I've seen over the years, and
I don't have the insight and knowledge
of this industry like you do, but it just
seems like chairs are an ad hoc thing.
In so many cases they're, they're more
seen in corporate governance boards,
but a lot of times you don't see them.
It's often the c e o doing it.
And so were you seeing people like
advisory board chairs in your research or
was it something that you were taking on?
Was it sort of you were.
Building it as you were, like you
were building the plane, as you
were flying it, it like, 'cause
the, that's how I sense it from you,
but I'm just wondering how you're
seeing that it, it was, it was both, you
know, and, and it's, it's interesting
that that role of the independent share
is something that will become more and
more important in the market over time.
So where we see.
That importance of E Even looking
at some of the ethical dilemmas that
we've got in the, in the market around
consulting and the independence of
consulting, right, and the independence
and personal bias around decision making.
All those things are all leading into
how do we have demonstrated independence
before decisions are being made?
How are those decisions being informed?
So the market is constantly you.
Information in conversations.
You see information in, in the
newsfeed where everything is like
breadcrumbs that we'll see, you know,
bringing those stories together.
I don't know, some, some concepts
just come to you because you
are thinking with intent.
So you know how sometimes you
might daydream and you just let
things wash in your, you just wash
over you and that goes, that part.
Your thoughts are just really random.
But if you, what I, what I like to
do is just to, One thing on my mind
is say, isn't that interesting?
And just keep my mind focused on that.
And I might go for a hike, I might
go hug a tree, I might go have
a nap, I might go have a shower.
And then, and then just really focusing
on just thinking about this one thing.
And you just go deeper
and deeper into that.
It's not, it's nothing else than
that, but I think that that focus
and that determination to just.
Let everything else out.
Remove the noise and just focus on that.
It it reveal you.
I, you, the brain's an amazing thing
where you start to get insight just
from thinking about it and you know,
even the term thinking system that are
really reflected on that term because
people talking about systems thinking, an
advisory board is not a systems thinking.
It's a thinking system.
So I like doing things like that
and putting two odd things together
and just see if you do put those two
things together, what would happen?
And it's you.
I'm, I'm playing.
I'm getting paid to play.
I mean, it's just how
I hear you describe it.
It feels merging thing you're
doing research stuff's emerging,
and then you're putting it into
practice or in, in the current form.
You're, you're sort of playing
with it in this advisory
board world that you live in.
I, I just, it, it feels like there's
this really cool creative arc that you're
always on, which is you're just, just
out in front of the curve somehow because
of the research and the testing and the.
The creative spirit that, that
you live inside of somehow.
And that's just me, right?
So people think I'm an
entrepreneur and business owner.
I'm, I'm not.
I just like to play.
And one of the things that really
deeply concerns me about myself right
now is that people see me as an expert.
So, That's really a problem
because the market's changing so
rapidly that no one's an expert.
The other thing is I watch and listen
to people who consider themselves
experts every day, and the people
who listen the least are the people
who are the experts because just ask
me and I'll tell you how good I am.
And so experts listen differently.
So I don't wanna be ever in a position
where you stop thinking, you stop
listening, and you stop being curious.
So being an expert in something
like this where you've got to be
the teller like this, I'm much, I.
I much prefer to be on the, on your side
of things than being doing the listening.
That's my, I understand, that's
my, understand that I'm pushing
you in a really cool way.
But you, you are the, in the words of,
I don't know who the og, so which is the
original gangster, that's the OG term.
I'd like to be
I like, I
So what's the difference
between an advisory board and
a best practice advisory board?
There, there's, there's so many
different forms of advisory boards.
Um, there's not one way of doing it,
but to go from informal advisory boards
where a business owner in particular
would chair their own advisory board,
not pay people, they kind of fizzle out.
You get peer advisory boards where
you get one chair and you get
multiple businesses around that table.
That's really great in the socialization
of entrepreneurs where people say
it's lonely in business and you
talk about everybody's needs, then
you get advisory board of one where
they say, I wanna have an advisory
board, but I wanna grow into it.
So they work with the
chair on a monthly basis.
Then you get this little fabulous
little hybrid called a popup advisory
board, where business might say, oh,
well I'll work with my chair on a
monthly basis, but let's pop in advisors
and specialists as we need them.
It's a great, fluid,
flexible way of doing it.
Then the practice advisory boards is
when you've got an independent chair,
got internal representatives, and you
choose, your external advisors really
fit for purpose and they might meet
four times a year and they've got a
charter and they measure the impact.
So it's very purposeful, it's very
focused, and it's very impact driven.
That's very different to
a governance board, right?
Where that governance board is that
decision making model where advisory
boards is the problem solving one.
So there, there are many
variations, uh, to that.
The best practice is really when
you've got the, the key principles.
So we develop the only best practice
framework for advisory boards, which is
principles led rather than the process
driven, which is around clarity of scope,
structure and discipline, measurement,
independence, and fit for purpose.
So it's a really good balance, souls
purpose, a balance of process, and
then ultimately a balance of people.
That fit for purpose term is something
that when I learned it from you, although
I've heard the term before in the context
of advisory boards fit for purpose,
just feels such like a good term, but.
At its heart, what's fit
for purpose mean to you?
Like down in your, down,
down in your belly?
What's fit for purpose mean
means that there's, there's not a recipe.
This is not a, this is not
follow the bouncing ball.
Every business is different.
When you think about ultimately
what an advisory board is, advisory
boards is a construct, right?
It, it's a, it's a framework.
It's more important about why an
advisory board exists, not what it is.
Why do advisory boards exist?
It's because we want to really focus
on making better decisions for the
future in whatever environment.
So with this addicted addiction to
making decisions that I've found
back in 2002, the slowing it down
to create this safe space that's
non-binding, to have conversations just
to pull things apart, road test it.
It's okay to not know and
just explore things before we
commit to making the decisions.
We all need this space of problem
solving because the world, we are
demanding it of ourselves and of each
other that we all make better decisions
for the future, for lots of different
reasons, so many different reasons.
And so how do we create this safe space
to have this space to think that's
non-binding, but just have, you know,
people talk about 90 day planning.
It's not 90 day planning.
It's 90 day thinking.
At the end of that thinking, you
might make, make a commitment to make
a decision, but don't commit to, to
making decisions during that time.
Create that space just to think.
And when you think with each other,
that's in, in a really respectful way.
But points of view are different learning.
We're all being curious about the future.
And I think, and I can't remember
what the question was or originally,
but this, this, uh, the, the,
the why advisory boards exist.
It's not selling our model, it's
about creating these environments.
If it's not an advisory board,
that's okay, but what is it?
Where is it?
You are creating that
space to think, right?
So we make better decisions
and more confident decisions
and different decisions to what
we may have done in the past.
One of the things you have been talking
about recently is the value exchange
in that construct of the advisory.
You, you talk about a value exchange.
Can you talk a little bit more
about, so we were talking about
fit for purpose and how advisory
boards are really thinking systems.
They're problem solving
versus just decision making.
But within that is this value exchange
thing that's happening and can you
speak to that a little bit more?
The value exchange model only really
built it this year, and it's so simple,
but I built it because I was researching,
we, we, we were looking for a class
journals around advisory boards.
We only found six and
they weren't very good.
And out of date.
So the academic research
specifically around advisory boards,
really it's, it doesn't exist.
So I thought, where else do we look?
So I started to look at a class journals
around confidence in decision making.
And there's just so much, it's so,
it's so exciting seeing this research.
And so we deconstructed about 26 different
articles around the, the decision making
and confidence in decision making.
And they were all, I think again, when we,
when we read research, we've gotta think
about what's the intent of the writer.
What are they trying to achieve?
And I think a lot of people are
doing research to prove a point
rather than discover something new.
And so it really skews the way something
is written and what their argument
is that looking at all this, this
research around decision making was
just so much noise because couldn't
anchor it into something and I, I
couldn't bring it together in any way.
And then I thought I, I needed to
take a step back and say, why do
we wanna research decision making?
And for me it was roundabout, what
is that point when someone decides
to make a different decision?
And so there's a few things
that happen in that point.
There's the advisor and
there's the advisee.
There has to be a value
exchange for someone to wanna
make a different decision.
And so for when I just thought about
that and wrote it down and he's going,
that is the anchor, the value exchange
model between an advisor or an advisee.
That's the center, that's the foundation.
To whatever else we learn about that
one moment in time, then someone
decides to do something different.
Our research then can come
down back to that one point.
Otherwise, the future research,
we're doing this, but this is another
gift that we'll keep on giving.
The, the future research that we do
in this space needs to come back to
a central point that's simple about
this is the why we do what we do.
So the value exchange then is
between the advisor and the advisee.
And within that though, there
are some things that I believe
you learned that made this thing
really hum for you even more.
What were those?
Those sort of secret other elements that
really pulled that all together for you?
there are two things that
I, I think I learned outta
that process that I know now.
And I'm, it's, everything's always
subject to change by what we learn
for what's next, uh, and what
else goes into the mix there.
There are two things that, that I
really understand at the moment.
One is the power of three
when someone makes a decision.
It's not just making a good decision,
it's about what makes an optimal decision.
And it's when you get advice from
really trusted sources, but three,
three independent sources and
getting that advice on a particular
thing creates an optimal decision.
And so when you think about an
advisory board, that's interesting
because you have an independent
chair and two external advisors.
So you've got the power of three that
are independent, three of the business,
and independent of each other, right?
So what that does, it escalates
trust in the conversation
that you have together, right?
It's not three separate conversations.
It's a trust in that
So I think that's a really
interesting thing around the
element of trust Ys trust.
The other, the other thing
is the confidence test.
Now, often I, I hear advisors, so the
advisor board center, our community, about
600 advisor board professionals in our
community and including you, who are all
quality people, doing really good things.
Now, I hear through so many
conversations from advisors, both
within our network as well as external.
I gave someone that advice
and they didn't listen.
I told them that you should do this.
And I think when, when advisors have
that point of view and they've got a
right to have that point of view, but
they're kind of missing the point.
'cause there's a whole lot of other
things that are going on as well.
Now, the confidence test, we know
there's three things that someone
needs to feel confident about
in making a different decision.
One is the confidence in
the advisor or the advisors.
Do I have confidence?
They have my back and they have the right
intent around the advice give, right?
So when you get an advisor who's
also then a consultant that really
un undermines trust around intent, so
there's confidence in the advice, then
you've got confidence in information.
So you get this whole argument and, and
rightly so, a very deep conversation
about AI as being a source of information.
But what information.
Do you have, whatever it is,
is it the right information?
And is that the information that
we need right now to be able to
consider with what we wanna do next?
So you've got confidence in the advisor,
you've got confidence in information.
The last piece and the most
important piece is for the decision
maker to have confidence in their
ability to be able to execute.
And so advisors, I.
As a profession, we need to
get over ourselves, right?
And we need to be deeply thinking not
just about what we know, but what somebody
else is going to do with that and for us
to support them with that, because it's
not what we know that's most important.
It's about how confident somebody
feels about what they are committing
to, to doing what with what's next.
This is where it changes people's lives.
Oh, that's, that is so profound.
It's just so profound.
And how, with that sense of the
confidence, that whole sense of the
confidence test and the power of three.
'cause interestingly, in the confidence
test, there's three elements, plus
there's the power of three, uh,
three unique points of view coming
into the, the decision maker.
Where have you seen that in your own,
'cause I know as you lead the advisory
board center across the world and
in your own, you have advisors and
where have you seen that model that's
emerged in practice for yourself?
Where, where is it become a
real story in your own world in
terms of advice coming to you?
As a leader and recognizing that either
you didn't have the confidence or you
had to struggle with it a little bit.
I, I wonder if you have
a personal example of
That's a really good question.
In the previous business, it, it was, I
think I had the three, the three around
me, and that was just by, not by design.
Having the conversation everybody
together, not one-to-one.
There's, there's a term in the startup
land called mental whiplash, right?
And it's when you're asking the same
question in multiple environments and
you just drive yourself and everybody
else crazy because you can't get, get a
grip on it, you can't get context to it.
So the conversation here,
a conversation there.
Something over here, it's how do
you make sense of all of that?
And so the, the power of advisory
boards is quality meetings, having a
quality meeting, and I think my big
learning moment currently is about the
power of advisory boards, including
for myself, my own advisory board
meetings is the quality of the agenda.
What gets on the agenda, and it's
really interesting, you know, when
you think about some of the research
we're doing at the moment about
the quality of how an agenda is
structured, it's also a power of three.
It's a third, a third, a third, and
that's where I'm seeing really the,
the, the power of quality meetings at
the moment is a third is about really
understanding and unpacking what is
the problem statement, not going into
solution mode, but just really just deeply
questioning and exploring the problem.
Third is then having a discussion
around exploring the, you know,
how to navigate that problem.
And then the last third is about
what are you gonna be committed to.
So I continue to research
everything on myself.
And so, right.
This is, this is the, the stuff that
I'm really learning at the moment when
I'm working with my advisory board,
that we are really careful about the
way that we structure that agenda.
In the market.
You know, the state of the market
report explores the real dilemma that
we have around governance at the moment.
And we're not talking about
governance boards anymore, we're
talking about governance systems.
The yes, boards of directors
are increasingly constrained and
their agendas are getting bigger.
So what do they do?
And this is where the new
role of advisory boards.
Within a system of governance is a
very important role to play and I think
something that we should be taking
ourselves seriously about the opportunity
we have to really support governance board
directors to make really good decisions,
and that that's, I feel very responsible
about the way that we shape that.
In that, with that agenda getting
bigger, what actually gets on
the agenda and what doesn't.
'cause you can't cover us on everything.
And that is, that is the tricky
thing in the market today
when it's just so complex.
So many things need to be
unpacked and discovered.
How do you focus on the things
that are going to matter
and what gets the airplane?
Well, and that, that to me is such a,
a part of what you said earlier, which
is the way you think through things.
You sort of play with them.
Then you research them and then
you test them in your own world
and then they become models.
And what I think is so interesting
about you and your model over the years
is, is you've used advisory boards,
you've been on advisory boards, and
in the current advisory board center,
the, the global organization, that
that is really leading the charge
in terms of how to do this best.
You employ advisory board to help
you think through this kind of stuff.
And that to me is just, you know, I, I say
often to people, I eat my own dog food.
Like when I say to people, you should
get coached or you should get an
advisor, I hire coaches and advisors.
And so it, I think it's so
important, but because you're at
the leading edge of this, what big
mistakes are you seeing emerge?
And I, I'm gonna particularly 'cause
you, you researched the world.
And it feels to me sometimes, like the
Asia Pacific region, a lot of the European
stand, they, they have much higher
standards, whereas I feel like North
America in general tends to be more ad
hoc in their advisory board structure.
I realize that there's
a lot of people here.
What are the mistakes
you're seeing happen?
Not so much in how the, you know,
the, the specific advisors are on
them, but how advisory boards are
run, say, in North America, maybe
more than in other parts of the world.
You know, I,
I applaud anyone that wants to put
it together to bring the outside
in to engage with other people, to
improve the quality of their thinking.
So even if it's informal and it's
ad hoc, They're giving it a go.
Good on you.
The big mistake is making decisions
in a bubble without being considered
about the consequences of the
decisions that you're making.
And so, yes, advisory
boards could be better.
It's a missed opportunity, not, not
because it's, it's because of constraints.
It's just a missed opportunity
to be able to do things better.
So there's always rooms for improvement.
You know, we have a hundred
year strategy in place.
We're six and a half years young
now, so we've got a long way to
go ourselves as a profession.
So we've got a lot to learn.
So to listen and to listen with purpose
is what, what I think we all have
the opportunity to do and to collab,
have more collaborative thinking.
In the way that we do it, yes,
there is systems and processes
that could always be improved.
I think the US uses the term advisory
boards in the market really broadly, uh,
really loosely, but they're trying to
build an environment where it's inclusive.
So I I, instead of giving it a hard
time, I think it's, it's actually great.
There's something, there's a
reeducation about best practice
to make it more effective.
There's certainly ethical considerations
the way, the way you see some of them
being that operating that absolutely
undermine trust and create conflicts
of interest and, and all that.
It's a start.
So I think, you know, advisory
boards are about the future.
It's optimistic, it's blue sky, and
so I think our own mindset about being
positive about it and building on
it is where the conversation for all
of us is, is where we can take it.
Beautiful that it's so beautifully.
Well, well said.
And, and I appreciate you turning
my somewhat negative question and
into an incredibly positive answer.
I could talk to you
for another four hours.
You are fascinating.
I, I am not just intrigued by this whole
advisory board world that you've created.
I'm even more intrigued by the fact
that you just, the, the essence of
who you are and how you've built and
shaped this whole thing, I realize with
a lot of help and a lot of support,
but I, I'm just in awe of you as a
leader and as a insightful person.
Who is creating this a hundred year
future, which is just, just amazing to me.
So thank you for the
really cool work You're
Well, thank you, Tom.
And you know, you are part of this
whole community too, you know, what
are you looking forward to at being
part of this whole journey of best
practice in a, in a global community
that are focusing on thinking together?
I'm just, I find it.
I find it fascinating and appealing that
there is a better way, a continually
better way to do things in companies.
I have spent years coaching
executives and coaching CEOs.
I, I've always seen that there's this
sense that when there is that thinking
community or think that thinking group,
there's sometimes not, sometimes there's
often I've seen it, there's often
this insight jump that happens, like
there's this amplification of result
and to me that's the, that's the cool
part, what you've talked about today.
I didn't have the words for it,
but I've seen it for so many years.
This, this cool thing that happens.
When A C E O puts around them,
a group of people that help
them to think differently.
It's only in the last couple of years
that I really understood the importance
of the advisory board and became
part of your world and your network,
and became a certified chair myself.
But I'm excited by the, the, the
incredible possibility that comes
with this kind of construction,
this kind of best practice approach
to bigger futures for companies.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And, and you know, the, um, the latest
report looking at the growth and
references to advisory boards is growing
worldwide and it's been turned the hot new
governance trend by the Financial Times.
When they looked at our research, I think
in 2025 when we looked to, to what's
next, advisory boards are gonna shift from
being the hot new governance, uh, trend.
To being the hot new leadership trend.
There is the, this is being
driven by the stakeholder economy.
And so for any leader leading decisions
without considering stakeholders and
demonstrating quality around that,
the way that these engage with, uh,
stakeholders, it's just not gonna wash.
And so advisory boards is
a very important construct.
Around stakeholder engagement.
And so this is changing the nature
of advisory boards in a massive way.
So it's only really just beginning now.
Well, I'd love to end with that,
but I'd also like to just ask
you a few more sort of rapid fire
questions just to end the Okay.
End the conversation 'cause
it's just interesting to me.
Um, iPhone or Android.
Oh, do I have to choose?
What's your favorite backpacking
destination in the entire
I have to say National Parks.
a specific one.
Is there a specific national
park that's your favorite?
No, I like going to to the
What has Dragon Boat Racing helped you
to understand about advisory boards?
Keep your eyes in the boat.
So our, our coach Cora, she's so feisty,
she's strong and she's, uh, so before
we start a, a competition, we're,
we're all ready to start the race.
And she says, okay, everybody
get your eyes in the boat.
And so it's all about, it's
just, it's just wonderful.
It's all about poker.
Is there something outside of your
professional life that up until
now nobody knows about, that you're
irrationally passionate about right now?
No, I, I love, I love hugging trees.
Uh, so that's something
that, that fills the well to.
And what's one book that has
shaped you more than any other?
Because I know you've been shaped by
thousands of books probably, but what's
a book that has shaped you more than,
I come back to, I was, uh, lecturing
at a university and I got into trouble
for bringing a book to the class
once about strategy, and it was Dr.
Zeus, the Lorax.
And, uh, yeah, and, and so someone
complained about me using it,
and then I, I took it to back to
the faculty and they loved it.
But yes, I, the, the simple
is, is sometimes the most
Well, Louise, this has
been an absolute pleasure.
You are a rockstar in so many ways,
and I am like beyond honored that
I get to know you in my life and
to even have you on the, uh, the
podcast is a delight, so thank