Directorship – a skilful role

Some might say that in a director role, experience is what counts. Where have you been? What have you achieved? What knowledge and insightful perspectives do you bring? And they’d be right. Experience is important. But it’s far from all.

As a director, you’re a manager of managers. You’re tasked with taking the big picture view while staying focused on the bottom line. It’s all about leadership, strategic decision-making, and responsibility (shared, maybe, but still yours) for the future of the organisation and the people working in it. Usually, your own career and personal success (and often remuneration) is closely tied to that of the company.

It’s a big role and your experience will undoubtedly influence how you deliver. But while experience may make you wise in the ways of business, it’s your skills that determine how effectively you can apply that experience to your directorship.

So, what skills does a director need? The following checklist is a quick dip of the toe in the water. Directors, check your skills…

Planning & Strategising

  • Creating strategy – Knowing how to analyse and interpret both your internal resources (financial, people, and intellectual assets) and external environment (markets and competitors) and identify viable business goals for the organisation to create competitive advantage.
  • Business planning – Plotting a course to achieve the agreed strategic goals. Understanding business planning models and tools such as forecasting, pricing for profit, resource allocation, risk analysis and contingency planning.
  • Continuity – Understanding that nothing in this world goes completely according to plan. ‘Interruptions’ happen along the way. Analyse and anticipate where you can and be ready for the unexpected.

Steering the Ship

Knowing where you’re going and planning a route is one thing, arriving at your destination is another.

  • Implementing the business planAs a director, you usually achieve your goals through others, your team, colleagues, external stakeholders, and so on. This means visionary leadership, effective influencing strategies, and negotiation.
  • Corporate governance – Understanding and using the system of rules, procedures and processes by which the organisation is run, including control mechanisms and disclosure requirements… and your role in that.
  • Directing change – Taking a high-level approach to change, helping to guide not just individuals or teams but the whole organisation; including leading planned change initiatives and steering a course through the occasional crisis.

Foundation Stones

Some skills are broader and underpin (and enable) the above, more specific points. For example:

  • Judgement – The greater the responsibility, the more nuanced the judgement must be because you’re juggling so many factors, often competing. Again, you’re managing managers and you need to know when to step in and when to hold back and let someone else deal.
  • Ethics – What are the impacts of your decisions? Within the organisation and without? How do you deal with conflicts of interest (yours or others)? What about the wider social implications of what the business does, your corporate social responsibilities?
  • Great communication – Arguably, as in any role, this is the keystone. Both ‘receiving’ and ‘transmitting’: if you can’t (or won’t) understanding the complex information coming your way, your decisions won’t be fit for purpose; and if you can’t (or won’t) communicate those decisions clearly and appropriately for different audiences, your decisions won’t be translated into action.

As Jack Welch once said, “I only have three things to do. I have to choose the right people, allocate the right number of dollars, and transmit ideas from one division to another with the speed of light. So I’m really in the business of being the gatekeeper and the transmitter of ideas.” For any director, board member or CEO, being able to communicate well is critical.

If you’re looking for some support with Director skills, check out our company director training & development options. Or give us a call on 01582 714285. We’re here to help.

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