Senior IoD tutor Jean Pousson was welcomed by the GTA University at a presentation about what makes a great director. Jean set out to explain to attendees how they can be fully prepared for their role as a director. Many directors start their first board role both emotionally and professionally unprepared. As Jean said, ‘We advertise for directors and human beings show up.’
Guernsey boasts an impressive number of experienced and engaged directors and we strive to support their continued learning, and development opportunities for the next generation. The IoD partners with the GTA University to provide first-class director development opportunities locally.
For those who could not attend Jean’s recent development session, here are the highlights:
He identified the key skills for directors as:
- Having a good strategic antenna - most boards do not spend enough time thinking about strategy
- The ability to analyse and use information
- Being present to make decisions (and not just talk about them!)
- The ability to communicate well – amongst the board, but also with external stakeholders
- Being a leader
- Having the ability to influence...but not misuse influence
Jean answered the question: how can you tell if someone is trying to influence you?
- One-to-one lobby – the corridor conversations, private emails etc.
- Overt flattery about the position you are taking or your work in a particular area
Watch out for some communication red flags in the boardroom.
“With respect…” Signals a disagreement!
“Research has shown…” Check the research! Ask the director to back it up with the facts.
“When I was at…” Deliberately looking backwards, and given your fellow directors were probably not there with you, it makes it hard for anyone to really challenge the statement or sentiment.
“I think…” Thinking isn’t enough. Directors need to present the evidence that is behind the statement so it can be properly discussed.
Focus on the ‘G’ in ESG
Jean explained that governance exists because laws are additive and invite avoidance. The ethical approach will always be more robust than the legal. He said: ‘Market practice leads, law follows and we need to go beyond the code of corporate governance.’
Governance scandals reflect a lack of faith in the system - Carillon happened despite the rules. Jean advised that directors need to adopt the right mindset:
- Being ethical
- Being professional
- Being performance-orientated
- Being independent
- Being aware of yourself and of others
Why do directors “fail”?
- No or poor training, induction, or director development
- Remain too operational
- Don’t get the dynamics of the boardroom
- Stay in their own lanes rather than getting across all aspects of the business
- Exhibit bravado rather than humility
The “perfect” NED:
- Has gravitas, presence and commercial nous
- Remembers that experience is great as long as the future resembles the past
- Can challenge intelligently
- Has an independent mind - like a jury member
- Is curious
- Doesn’t relive his/her executive role
According to Jean, the last 18 months have given directors a number of lessons. These include:
- Velocity of risk needs to be added to risk frameworks – Covid has shown it’s not just about probability and impact, speed also needs to be considered
- If the business model is under threat, a good balance sheet only buys you time, it won’t make a difference in the long run
- Continuity plans are there for a purpose!
- The worst CAN happen (yes, all stores CAN close overnight and for extended periods)
- If you can’t innovate now, you won’t - there has never been a better time for change and innovation
- It’s time to truly be a learning board
- There is no blueprint!
You can review Jean's slides from the training here.
Good directors know that learning and courses are for those at all levels of a business. Our members benefit from constant support on their professional journeys through networking, educational and lobbying opportunities. You can find more information on our membership and upcoming courses here.