Case Study:

Tesse Akpeki

Meet Tesse Akpeki as she tells us what its like to work as a consultant and strategist at FCG

Tesse Akpeki FCG Consultant and strategist
Case Study: <p>Tesse Akpeki</p>

Tesse works with organisations and individuals to strengthen their health and enhance their impact.

As a philantrhopic entrepreneur, she runs a boutique service that provides leadership and governance development, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and bridge building, alongside hosting two podcasts, a book review club and her virtual network, the Wellbeing and Resilience network. Through all of these channels, Tesse encourages collaboration, connection, cooperation, culture shaping, enabling and the delivery of services to individuals and organisations who need them.

Tesse is currently in a position where she holds a number of unique roles simultaneously − She is lead strategist in her own portfolio of services, the lead consultant to Bates Wells Onboard Governance Development Programme,  an  Associate to Directory of Social change, an Associate to Getting On Board, and ministerial  development consultant to the Bishop of Willesden.

It is the variety and agility of the work and the transformational governance of our time that I love.
No one can achieve anything on their own - we stand on the shoulders of giants. We need each other to sustain success.
What is Governance

What is Governance?

It is crucial that governance focuses on compliance, policies, procedures and structures.   However, the essence of effective governance is about engagement, participation and enabling people. Shaping cultures and recognising the contribution of people in fulfilling the organisational vision and mission is a must. In terms of sustainability, governance is about creating the conditions for success and impact.  Wellbeing, mental health, rewarding appropriate behaviours and matters of ethics and good conduct are not just a nice to have, they are paramount. This is where compassionate accountability comes to the fore. The notion here is to demonstrate compassion while holding people and organisations to account.

What is a Governance professional

What is a governance professional?

A governance professional creates the conditions for success and sustainability from wherever they operate. They will ensure that the organisation, network or movement remains relevant, that it is alive, and that it breathes and lives. The governance professional is a leader and nurtures leadership in others.

Tesse sees leadership as a title, as a function, as a combination of versatility and perspectives. As a governance professional she has an advisory and support role to boards and senior leadership/executive teams. She deals with stakeholder engagement, board diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, succession planning, chair and chief executive development, boardroom dynamics, board effectiveness, organisational culture, recruitment and induction of directors and trustees, environmental impact assessment and reporting as well as legal and regulatory changes. It is the variety and agility of the work and the transformational governance of our time that she loves.

The route to a career in governance

The route to a career in governance

Tesse started her life as a barrister/solicitor in West Africa − she was a criminal defence lawyer. An opportunity arose and she moved to become a lawyer with a leading human rights activist, publisher and philanthropist, Gani Fawehinmi (SAN).

Life in the UK was hard as her legal qualifications were not recognised. However, her fortunes changed when she passed her examinations and was successfully employed by the Institute as an Executive Support Officer. She held this role for almost three years, before joining the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) as a Development Officer focusing on trustee training and equal opportunities for governing boards. In her spare time, she re-qualified as a solicitor in the UK and rose to become Head of the Governance Team with NCVO, a role she held for nine years.

In 2005, her career took a different turn as she made the choice to become self-employed. This allowed Tesse the freedom to work on multiple projects simultaneously including a role as Head of Governance with Bates Wells London LLP, for which she was headhunted. She now has a boutique leadership development practice offering governance and leadership support, working with a range of organisations, networks and movements. She launched a virtual network called the Wellbeing & Resilience Leadership Initiative in 2020, is an enthusiastic podcaster hosting #TesseTalks and #Tesseleads, as well as hosting a book club, #TesseReads. Somewhere in this mix, Tesse connected with her love for poetry. ‘I won several prizes for poetry and debate as a teenager,’ Tesse says. She created a space on Instagram, SmileyTesse_ to encourage others and to share her poetry.

The essential skill for success in governance

The essential skills for success in governance

- An ability to connect with the bigger picture (clarity of purpose, mission, vision and expectations).
- Attention to detail (displaying the competence needed and required to win trust).
- The ability to be accountable and hold one’s self and others to account.
- The ability to be compassionate and reach out to one's self and others with compassion.
- A willingness to be vulnerable, and to ask as well as receive support.
- An openness to learning and continuous improvement.
- Humility and courage to link into networks who can take you to the next level of discovery, innovation and blending of skills. Able to challenge yourself and others with care and kindness
- A willingness to nurture and develop the next generation of leaders.
- Being able to balance technical (soft) skills and human-centred skills.
- Demonstrating agility, responsiveness, relevance and dynamism.

Career highlight

Career highlight

Tesse is proud of the recognition she has received from the government in connection to the contribution she is making through her work. Firstly, she was invited by the Minister of Equalities to a lunch with nine other women of colour and recognised as a social entrepreneur – this was totally unexpected! Tesse was also invited to Downing Street for a private meeting to share her experience of building and bridging communities. Tesse was asked to be part of a panel at an All-Parliamentary Group meeting speaking about equality, inclusion, equity and diversity as it relates to governance and getting more diverse participation on governing bodies. The icing on the cake was being given the award, Champion for Governance by CGIUKI and being made a Fellow for the Association for Coaching (AC).

How did the Institute support your career as a governance professional?

How did the Institute support your career as a governance professional?

Tesse feels proud to have had the support of the Institute throughout her career. The Institute saw her and her potential when this was invisible to others. In Tesse’s own word “The Institute saw me, acknowledged me, did not judge me and supported me from day one.”

>Her first fulfilling role was with the Institute as an Executive support role – in which she worked hard and beat the competition to earn. Her boss, saw something in her and she has never looked back.

Tesse has spoken at Institute events and chaired conferences on behaviours, relationships and cultures − and she has had fun doing it! Being able to support other governance professionals as part of her role is important to Tesse and she is involved in the mentorship programme “Being a mentor to other CGI members is so rewarding,” she says.

Tesse sums up her connection to the Institute in her own words better than we could, and we promise there was no need for influence... “I simply love CGI, I am a fan of how the Institute encourages diverse talents.”

Words of wisdom for your governance career

Words of wisdom for the next generation of governance professionals?

I had so many obstacles and hurdles to climb and had to work out how to get around the barriers and walls if I could not get over them. The struggles, the difficulties, the challenges have helped to strengthen me and contributed to my resilience as well as to my success.

My words of wisdom would be to persevere, be brave, be courageous and learn from failure as well as success. No experience in life is ever wasted. Stop, celebrate. Take care of yourself. Look out for others and take time to smell the flowers.

No one can achieve anything on their own − we stand on the shoulders of giants. We need each other to sustain success. “I love the South African word ‘Ubuntu’ meaning humanity to others. I am because of who we all are.”

I finish with the words of Dr.Nate Regier, “Compassion without accountability gets you nowhere. Accountability without compassion gets you alienated.” As governance professionals, we need to demonstrate compassionate accountability. This leads to building better, healthier, more sustainable organisations; better cultures, more productivity and richer experiences.

On a personal note, a word of encouragement and caution: don’t change yourself to become what other people believe or expect you to be. Be yourself, everyone else is taken!

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