What I wish I knew before becoming a director

The most useful piece of advice I’ve received as a director

A senior director once told me, “What you see may not be what it is”. Looking back on 20 years of boardroom experience, two things have stood out: no one has all the answers, and the importance of listening to various perspectives can never be underestimated. A critical mindset is fundamental if directors are to assess and deconstruct situations and contribute effectively. Three dimensions (director competencies, board activities and director behaviours) must all work in conjunction with each other. No single component can stand alone.

What I wish I knew at the start of my director career

That there is no one ‘best’ answer. ‘Best practice simply does not exist. Good decisions are contextual; each organisation and each situation is different. Therefore, the notion of ‘one size fits all’ is never applicable. However, several frameworks and principles are helpful to the pursuit of good practice. These are explored in The Effective Director Course.

How can courses like the Effective Director Course can make a difference to a director’s career

I’m a firm believer in on-going education; attending courses like The Effective Director Course is crucial if directors are to acquire practical skills to support their directorial aspirations. Another important consideration is currency of knowledge—it’s really important to stay on top of emerging knowledge and trends. Aspiring directors can benefit as well—attendance at courses such as the Effective Director Course can increase the likelihood of securing a board appointment.

Tips on becoming an effective director

  • Commit to ongoing professional development, and pursue training from a reputable organisation
  • Be prepared to start small, moving to ‘larger’ board roles over time as your expertise and experience grows
  • Read widely, to stay on top of good practice, emerging trends and theoretical perspectives
  • Allocate adequate time (five hours for each hour in the boardroom is a good rule of thumb), to ensure you are informed and, therefore, able to make positive contributions
  • Seek out an independent mentor

What can go wrong in this role

Lots of things can go wrong! Decisions may not work out as expected, relationships may become fractured and, sometimes, boards encounter unexpected legal proceedings. Regardless, the board must remain at the epicentre of decision-making. It needs to take responsibility by seeking information, considering matters carefully and then resolving challenges as and when they occur. A positive mindset serves to create a more effective culture and stronger commitment amongst managers and staff. Courses such as The Effective Director Course are enormously beneficial because they expose directors to a range of approaches to respond well to challenges that will inevitably arise during the course of a director’s career.

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