In Conversation with Teo Lay Lim, Independent Director

Teo Lay Lim has a formidable CV. She is an Independent Director of UOB and will become the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SPH Media Group. She also supports various other organisations in Singapore, including Workforce Singapore and the Future Economy Council of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (Singapore).

She was also formerly a Senior Managing Director at Accenture, where she worked for over 33 years. She operated across various dimensions of her firm – leading client accounts, running business portfolios, and building and leading consulting practices.

As a BoardAgender’s SG50 Champion, Lay Lim was also the perfect Keynote speaker to share her advice to the mentees attending the closing ceremony for its 2021 BoardAgender’s Mentoring Programme for Aspiring Women Directors held on 13 January 2022.

Three key takeaways for aspiring directors

Lay Lim shared three takeaways for aspiring directors to consider as they progress their board careers.

  1. Understand the value you bring to the table.

It is always flattering if someone asks you to be part of a board or a committee. However, it is also vital for directors to reflect on what they bring to the table.

“I’ve always found it helpful to just take a breath and just say, ‘Why do you want me? What can I bring to the table?’ And it’s always interesting because that for me is a very important part of thinking about whether this is a place that you should be,” Lay Lim shared.

“So, this question about ‘why me’, and finding the right fit of what you bring to the table, and what the board is looking for [is] always a very helpful conversation to have.”

  1. Trust the people you will work with

Lay Lim’s second message was that she attaches great importance to the people she meets in the board appointment process, particularly given the board directors’ involvement with the organisation.

“This is a two-way street. I’d try and figure out if you are for them, and… if they are for you. Because I think being on the board is one in which you place yourself in the hands of an organisation. There’s a very high level of trust because what you see as a non-exec is just those perspectives that you see, possibly once a quarter. Even then, there’s never enough time to adequately understand the full context of decisions and how things run day to day in between,” she noted.

“And so, I will always say, think about the people you meet… Sometimes [it’s] a factor of chemistry. Sometimes it’s a style thing. It just got has to feel right. Because… it’s actually a commitment for quite a long term,” she added, highlighting that a commitment to a board is for several years.

She also added that directors need to ensure that a board role is right for them.

“I always feel connected to purpose is important. Is a company, even in the commercial world, [an] organisation about transformation, or is it about just staying the status quo? Is about visualisation, globalisation, or is it about improving profitability?”

“All these are worthy and important things, but you’ve just got it’s got to be what you think you could connect to for purpose.”

Lay Lim also highlighted the importance to her of authenticity and integrity. Directors have choices on what they do. It is essential to find roles where you will thrive and grow into the role and truly enjoy yourself in what you do and the people you spend time with. Also, be comfortable having the appetite to say no – if it is not something you can see yourself doing.

  1. Connect to your passion

Finally, Lay Lim feels it is vital to connect to your passion and do things that feel right. You can’t assume that being a board member is a mark of success.

If you “bring something to the table, and it’s done with the right people, then I think you have the perfect formula for a very fulfilling board journey ahead.”

Visit here to learn more about BoardAgender’s Mentoring Programme for Aspiring Women Directors.

By Karen Loon, BoardAgender Committee Member