Guiding boards. Growing business.

(Skill)Set Yourself Apart as a Director

What do skillset, experience, perspective, knowledge and background have in common?

The link isn’t apparent till you add aspects such as age, gender and race.

Correct: These are all demographics associated with diversity. And obviously some of the former are easier to change or develop than others.

The importance comes with developing those that you can develop. We all know that what worked ten years ago does not necessarily work these days. We also know that what works today might not work in ten years’ time.

We have to continuously invest in ourselves to stay relevant and up to date. Just as processes become outdated, our knowledge, practices and skills do as well.

Diversity of Skillset

Although directors do not have job descriptions as such, there are important skills and characteristics which stand them in good stead during the appointment stage and of courses once having taken up their position.

Let’s consider three skillsets: new, neglected and existing skills.

It is relatively easy to discover new required skills by keeping up to date with trends in sector, industry and field. Tech savviness must be one of the most obvious. Do not get left behind as processes improve and technology evolves. Not only will being ahead of the curve make your role more seamless and your contribution greater, but you will also remain relevant for longer.

When you first started working you may have diligently kept timesheets and written down action plans with schedules. Now that your role is more complex, you barely have time to note everything down let alone action them. You have a board pack that was due yesterday and a committee meeting later today that you have not prepped for. Sound familiar? Time management is one of those ageless skills that will serve you well. Not only will you feel and be more organised, but ticking off what has been completed is also good for you: Many people experience a dopamine rush having achieved something even small which in turn increases enthusiasm to complete more.

It is important to not neglect your existing skillset while exploring new ones and brushing up on old ones. You were placed in your specific role for a reason – your unique skills, abilities, experience and background bring diversity and strength to the board. Always bear in mind the role of a board member or non-executive director and consider what value it is that other people recognise in you – whether being tech savvy in a digital space, understanding the dynamics and background of a company’s target market with changing demographics, or bringing the financial or people aspect to the board. Ensure that you remain an expert in the field that you were appointed for.

What Next

If you want to know what skills you need to learn, reignite or hone, Sirdar’s head of Appoint, Beverley Hancock suggests that you ask yourself three questions before deciding whether to apply for a non-executive director position:

  • Would I employ myself as a director, and why?
  • What would I expect myself to brush up on?
  • What would I expect myself to develop that I do not already display?

The reality is that most people who find themselves in an executive or non-executive director position have not been taught how to be an effective director and it is important to both understand your role and effectively apply your understanding thereof i.e. you must invest in yourself. Beverley encourages you to:

  • Commit to your own directorship development to add more value to the boardroom.
  • Develop an understanding of effective and integrated board and governance methodology.
  • Identify areas of personal directorship strengths and opportunities to develop further.
  • Ensure that you gain working knowledge of the essential tools required for effective board meetings.
  • Reinforce and augment knowledge and understanding of directors’ duties and statutory obligations.
  • If you sit on a board, ask your chairman or fellow board members what skills they feel would further boost your position as a director.
  • Embrace vulnerability to elevate yourself for your next board position.