Let’s think a moment about what is required of a good company director in terms of mindset, effort, skill and risk. Yes, we agree that past experience is the greatest of teachers, but in a curriculum of many subjects it is only one teacher. Having taken the time to acquire the basic credentials is another. For this I recommend the Company Directors program run by the AICD or its equivalent. In fact, if this basic requirement is not met then our advice is do not proceed beyond this point.
Each of us has a talent and interest for at least one area of subject matter expertise. It may be Finance, Law, Strategy, Risk, Client Engagement, Sustainability or others. Know what you bring to the table. Whilst all directors are equally liable it may be your role to monitor debate in your area of expertise and develop the Boards overall understanding and ability to make informed decisions. Beware though the specialist trap. Every specialist must learn to be a specialist generalist and contribute across all domains.
Knowing how to work in a team where robust discussion is valued, curiosity encouraged and having reached a decision, egos parked is a requirement for healthy board functioning. Often this if missed is what brings many boards undone. Eventually it is how we work together to arrive at the best decision. Knowing how to work in a team starts with knowing oneself. From self-knowledge one can extend to understanding others.
Supervision is a key attribute of any good board and so directors should display the qualities that make this happen in a constructive way where as a colleague once said it is Noses In and Fingers Out (NIFO). Supervision is how we understand what is required and determine if this occurred and can redirect the executive in achieving this if they have fallen short.
Mature supervision must transcend accountability to focus on supporting management to succeed. Boards should see their role as helping but not doing, (NIFO). The agility of an organisation can be measured in its resilience and adaptability. Learning to move forward requires the executive to pick themselves up after falling. Good boards should rarely have to intervene, great directors should be invested in equipping their executive with wisdom, guidance and a measure of forgiveness. The latter should be about what have we learnt and how do we take this wisdom forward?
High performing directors understand their purpose in serving others. In order to help we must first learn how we serve.
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