The Main Street America Group
Idalene Kesner, the first woman to serve as dean of the University of Indiana’s Kelley School of Business, sits on a variety of boards, so she finds herself traveling a lot. That means a lot of plane rides and a lot of hotels.
“Carry-on [luggage] for travel purposes, that’s all I ever do,” Kesner says. “You don’t have to wait for your luggage that way.”
She’s already prepped for her meeting before the plane lands, whether it’s by reading up on industry trends for private companies, getting analyst reports for public ones or doing a little bit of both. She also flags articles that may help in committee work (for instance the governance committee she chairs) and passes that along to her colleagues.
Meetings start early and go long. Kesner says breakfast with fellow directors may be as early as 7 a.m. and the day can go straight through dinner.
What gets her through?
“Lots of caffeine,” she says. “I’m a big coffee drinker in the morning and it will get me through the meeting pretty well.”
She says the best days are when the board will break for lunch and move away from the boardroom. “I like to have lunch in a bright place, with lots of windows. Often the meeting rooms can be closed up.”
She usually dresses in a pantsuit, though she’s noticed boards have moved toward “normal Friday business casual.”
But as someone who is in academic leadership, she is always in business attire. In fact, she says, “I don’t have particularly casual clothes.”
“I have noticed that women on boards tend more toward the business side than casual.”
For the company boards on which she sits, Kesner logs into portals that have vital information and allows notes to be made. She makes notes while she’s in the meeting, but deletes her additions at the end.
“I eliminate it because we have document retention practices and policies. You can reference all documents, but no notes,” she explains. “But my notes are the questions I have as we go along. Once I get the answers, I don’t need the notes anymore.”
After the meeting is over and she’s on the plane home, Kesner says she wraps up her board duties before touch down.
“When I’m on a committee, I’ve likely written up notes, liaisoned with management. While I’m on the plane, I want to accurately capture those notes and report them out.”
She also fills out reimbursement requests right away.
But once Kesner gets home, the rush is over.
“Sometimes I’m getting home extremely late,” she says. “The packed suitcase sits there for at least the next day—sometimes until the weekend. It’s a little gift I give myself.”