There are no dumb questions in the boardroom: Heidecker

Mar 07, 2014
The ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program is the leading national program for experienced directors in Canada. ICD's Director Journal recently spoke to some of these alumni about their DEP experience and how they’ve applied the course learning to their board work.

Corporate Director
Even when you have an estimated 250 years of accumulated experience on boards, there's always something new to learn, says Brian Heidecker. He has sat on the boards of virtually every type of organization that has a board of governors, but still took the Directors Education Program in 2007.
"I was surprised at given how much experience I had, how much I still could learn," he says, especially when it came to areas of governance that are getting particular attention these day, such as risk management.
Heidecker is a graduate of the first ICD-Rotman Directors Education Program ever to be held in Alberta. At the time, he was already Chair of the University of Alberta's Board of Governors, a post he held until 2011.
Since then, and long before, the founder of Drylander Ranch Ltd. - a large scale cattle and forage operation based in Coronation, AB - has been a member of many boards. These include: ATB Financial; The Bank of Canada; The Alberta Securities Commission; the Canada Council on Learning; Alberta’s Agriculture Financial Services Corp.; and the Sawridge Trusts, a First Nations entity.
Heidecker estimates that about one-quarter to one-third of the material in the course he was in was "fresh to him." And what was almost as amazing is how much of that new information often came as a result of the questions asked by fellow course members who had much less board experience.
"You know the expression 'no dumb questions?' Well definitely there were a lot of people in the course - even people who already sat on boards – who felt comfortable enough to ask the supposed 'dumb' question," he says.
Heidecker adds that often the answers to the question, and the ensuing discussion, proved to be enlightening to everyone, even old hands at sitting on boards.
At the same time, Heidecker said as much as he learned from the DEP, it was also an affirmation of how much he already did know, and how much he could contribute by mentoring and networking with others who want a career in corporate governance.

Source: ICD Director Journal

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