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Jodi Hubler: From HR Leader and Investor to Independent Director and ‘Force for Change’

2022 Outstanding Director Uses Her Expertise to Advocate for Under-Represented Communities

After serving on 12 corporate boards in 15 years, Jodi Hubler would seem exceptionally well qualified for a board of director seat. But, as Hubler recognized, pivoting from an investor seat to that of an independent director required a change of perspective.

“I had to think about board work not as a component of my job, but as a point of service; a different way to manifest my value,” Hubler explained.

She added, “I was used to speaking return and venture capital. Now, I had to think more about the impact of governance.”

Today, after making that transition and landing independent seats with eight women-led organizations, Hubler has come into her own as an experienced strategist and a dedicated advocate for diversity.

We sat down with this year’s winner of an Outstanding Directors Award from Twin Cities Business to hear more about her board journey, the value of a Board Readiness engagement with Navigate Forward, and her advice for other corporate board candidates.

An HR Leader With a Knack for Transformation

A human resources executive, Hubler’s early career featured key roles in organizations undergoing large-scale transformations. She helped architect and implement major change initiatives in corporate and start-up environments including Cargill, Alcoa and Definity Health.

“I was involved in very non-traditional human capital roles focused on business and strategy alignment—particularly, significant culture change,” Hubler explained.

When a respected colleague launched a private equity firm in 2006, she followed. That led to 15 years as CEO and Managing Director of Lemhi Ventures, a $385 million venture capital fund investing in companies innovating across the health service ecosystem.

I had to think about board work not as a component of my job, but as a point of service; a different way to manifest my value.

Advising the leadership of privately-held companies was a critical part of her new investor role. She served on as many as six boards simultaneously, often as chair, and always with a watchful eye toward Lemhi Ventures’ fiduciary responsibilities.

“My surprise [early on] was how insular boards were—CEOs, finance, lawyers,” Hubler recalled. “Now, we’re watching boards open up to culture, sales, marketing, consumerism, digitization. There’s the appreciation that if we’re homogenous and insular as a board, that impacts the kind of advice and leadership we provide.”

“Widening the lens through which the board is looking at its work is an important objective,” she added.

One-On-One Guidance Helps Shift Her Perspective

In 2021, Hubler stepped back to focus solely on board of director opportunities—this time, in an independent capacity. Even with her depth of experience, she realized a shift was in order. That prompted her to engage Navigate Forward for Board Readiness.

The Navigate Forward process, and Patti O’Leary particularly, was invaluable in helping me accelerate that work, but in a very deep and authentic way.

For several months, Hubler worked one-on-one with Patti O’Leary, Executive Consultant and Board Readiness Practice Lead. The two concentrated on identifying the ideal board roles for Hubler, and positioning her diverse experience for a more general governance and advisory role.

“The Navigate Forward process, and Patti O’Leary particularly, was invaluable in helping me accelerate that work, but in a very deep and authentic way,” Hubler said. “Navigate Forward allowed me to come to market ready, at a point where the things that I said ‘yes’ to were absolutely ‘yeses’.”

She feels uniquely suited to understand boardroom dynamics of both sides of the table: investors and those looking for financial returns, as well as management teams operating the company day-to-day.

A Force for Change With Women-Led Enterprises

Another conscious choice Hubler made was to put her boardroom energy to the service of women-led enterprises.

Today, she formally supports eight organizations. In the non-profit realm, Hubler serves as board chair for CaringBridge and vice chair of the Medical Alley Association. In an investment advisory capacity, she serves Black Opal Ventures and chairs the state-run LaunchMN. She also holds independent board member seats with About, BrainCheck, Marani Health and Omcare.

“I really want to be a force for change,” she said. “Where I invest my energy now is absolutely in under-represented and underserved communities, and that is largely in coming alongside female CEOs and entrepreneurs.”

“That work is vitally important to me,” she added, noting that less than two percent of CEOs and founders today are women.

Where I invest my energy now is absolutely in under-represented and underserved communities, and that is largely in coming alongside female CEOs and entrepreneurs.

Hubler recalled the early days of her career in union and manufacturing environments, where she was often the only female at the table. Much of her venture capital experience was similarly advising male founders and CEOs.

“I now have the privilege to have a direct impact on selection committees, governance and nominating committees,” Hubler said. “I am very proud to have curated a portfolio of amazing women‑led companies and honored to be able to serve on their boards.”

Candidates Must Be Authentic and Intentional

Balancing numerous board roles is not for every leader. However, it’s on par with the pace of her venture capital days. Hubler also admits that she thrives on the work and the intensity.

“I love the diversity of experiences and businesses that I can be involved in, and each of them at their own inflection point. I love the ability to have an impact through governance,” she said.

Knowing your niche is essential for effective board work. Hubler advises other board candidates to take time for personal reflection before embarking on a board search.

Navigate Forward’s ability to help you manifest the best version of yourself is something that cannot be underestimated.

“Being very intentional about why you’re seeking board service is vitally important. It isn’t for the faint of heart!” she cautions. “The commitment to a board is a commitment to longevity. If you aren’t authentic in the exploration of your why, it will reveal itself in the midst of a very tough situation and create unintended consequences and churn.”

She credits her own clarity, in part, to her due diligence with outside experts.

“Navigate Forward’s ability to help you manifest the best version of yourself is something that cannot be underestimated. I’m forever grateful for it.”

Is board service in your future? A Board Readiness engagement can help you understand the landscape and market yourself effectively for board roles with public or private companies. Learn more about our services and download our free guide, Board Readiness Essentials.

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