What’s Motivating the Next Generation of Board Members?

Mike Steib board member Ally Financial

Mike Steib is a board member with Ally Financial and CEO of XO Group Inc., a multi-media marketplace that powers popular websites including The Knot, The Bump, The Nest, and Gigmasters. In this Q&A, we ask him about his journey to board service, his perspective on human capital management, and his new book: The Career Manifesto. This interview is part of our Next Gen Q&A Series.

The next generation of directors seems less interested in “gaining a board seat” than they are “serving on the right board”. What factors led you to consider board service—and to select the board you did?

Soon after I became CEO of XO Group (NYSE: XOXO), one of my directors encouraged me to find a board directorship to expand my thinking and see the boardroom from the other side of the table. It was great advice — being a director makes you a better executive.

I sought out a board where I could contribute to the success of an important corporate mission and ultimately joined Ally Financial (NYSE: ALLY), a hundred-year-old Fortune 500 automotive lender that has evolved into a premier digital financial-services company that helps millions of Americans save, invest, and borrow for their most important purchases.

Technology is changing the financial services industry, creating opportunities for Ally to offer more services, help more customers, and create substantial value for its shareholders. With my background leading digital businesses, developing new digital products, and launching new businesses and business models at XO Group, Google, and NBC Universal, the Ally board believed I added an important perspective to the team. I found the board to be impressive and deeply committed to the mission. I also really liked the CEO who, like me, is a relatively young chief executive with big plans for his company.

After I joined, to support Ally’s continuing evolution, we launched the Digital Transformation Committee of the board, which I chair. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to work with this terrific board and executive team to contribute to Ally’s success.

In a recent episode of Inside America’s Boardrooms, you discussed the board’s role in human capital management, a topic that will be garnering more attention in 2018. Why has human capital oversight become such a critical board function?

People do all the work. If you have great people, you get great work.

As the CEO of a company focused on building excellent digital products, I spend a lot of my time finding and developing talented people who get technology. As a director, I am able to contribute what I have learned in this area. As a leader, I benefit from the diverse experiences and insights of my own board in thinking about my organization.

You just published a book called, The Career Manifesto. What’s it about? / What motivated you to write it?

The Career Manifesto is a field-tested guide to architecting a meaningful career. It offers practical advice and tools for becoming more purposeful, productive, and effective in all areas of your life.

The Career Manifesto bookI have been the beneficiary of coaching, support, and fantastic experiences that have helped me immensely. Along the way, I have learned and developed methods for critical activities ranging from articulating a career plan to running effective meetings. I wrote it all down. I teach a course on these topics at my own company, and have now put it in a book. Maya Angelou once said, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” I’ve gotten a lot, so I wanted to share this with others.

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