Traci Houpapa | Power Coaching onto Boards | Professionelle

By Donna McTavish

Three experienced directors spoke candidly about governance and leadership at Professionelle’s recent Power Coaching onto Boards session in Hamilton. Each of the panellists has an impressive career in governance and was generous in sharing stories from their experiences inside the Boardroom.

Learning from the experts


Traci-Houpapa_125x167“Have you got any time?” is a question Traci Houpapa has heard often during her career.

“No” would be a good answer, she says, but you know that for her this was never an option. Traci is passionate about being involved in organisations that make a difference to New Zealand and she has been involved with many. She is an experienced company director but she became a director purely by chance.

Being a director is not for everyone. It’s a marathon and you need stamina. You need to understand yourself and be ready to ask questions, express your opinions and stand up for what you think is right.

Tania-Simpson_110x148Like Traci, Tania Simpson has an impressive list of governance positions on her resumé and much experience to share. When it comes to board appointments, she says,

Reputation really matters, and networks really matter. It’s important to back yourself and to be very clear on what you can offer to a board.

Being smart, hard working, future focused and humble are the traits of a good director, she says.

The third panellist, John Loughlin, is a Professionelle trustee and has been on the Board of many New Zealand companies.


John Loughlin_250x173“Some people are just good at governance” he says. “Having a strong career helps but is not the be all and end all”.

Boards look for new directors with specific skills and expertise so do your research and ask yourself how you can contribute. It’s your job to convince the board that you are the best person for the role so establish your credibility and play to your strengths.

Being a great judge of character and body language and being able to ‘read the numbers’ are also requisites of a good director according to John.

Nuggets of gold

Several attendees had the opportunity to deliver a pitch for a board position during the Power Coaching onto Boards event. Women serious about starting their governance careers had two minutes to showcase themselves in front of the panel. It was fantastic to see how well prepared, confident and articulate these women were and when it was the panellists’ turn to give their feedback, there were nuggets of gold not just for those brave enough to deliver a pitch, but for everyone in the audience.

Be Short
Your pitch is very brief so don’t be tempted to cram in too much information. Stick to the high points that are relevant to the role you are pitching for.

Be Sharp
Focus your pitch on 3 or 4 key messages that showcase your skills and expertise and demonstrate how you will contribute to the board.

Be Savvy
Do your homework and demonstrate your understanding of the issues facing the board. Ask insightful questions that show your quality of thought.

Be Smart
Join a board where you can excel and build your reputation from there.

Be Self-aware
Establish your credibility early in your pitch. Play to your strengths, speak slowly and believe in yourself.


If you are one of the many women interested in a career in governance, take advantage of the rich online resources that are available to assist your journey.

A good starting place is the Ministry of Women’s Affairs website at  for information and help with preparing and joining a board role including:

  • writing a CV tailored for a governance position
  • an online self-assessment tool to assess your board readiness
  • a database that facilitates the appointment of women to state sector boards and committees

And don’t forget the Professionelle website. Under the ‘Governance and Leadership‘ tab,
we’ve got articles, book reviews, research summaries, statistics and interviews with some of New Zealand’s most impressive leaders.



Donna started her career as a scientist but was lured from the laboratory to the world of books and journals. After many years in the medical publishing industry, she knows her ‘,’ from her ‘;’ and enjoys helping businesses to upskill their staff so that they can present themselves (and their employers) professionally.

Please contact Donna at,  on Twitter @DonnaMcTavish or

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