A 10-step guide to being an effective director

As I’m sure the vast majority of us wish to be the most effective board members we can be and make a positive and lasting contribution to the companies and organisations whose boards we serve on, I thought I’d share our findings on the characteristics needed to do just that.

But before I do, perhaps it’s opportune to have a look at what the celebrated professor of corporate governance at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Illinois, Robert Neuschel, said about the issue.

More to the point, how his findings tally with those we’ve unearthed during our quarter century in the governance consulting arena – and hopefully allow us to arrive at a universal truth.

Professor Neuschel said there are nine common attributes you’ll find in all high quality board members, these being:

 They possesses a deep interest and enthusiasm for the company or organisation they serve

 They have the wisdom and courage to confront issues and make the tough calls and decisions

 They invest time and energy to gain a solid understanding of the company and its products, as well as its markets and all its competitors

 They possess sound business judgment

 They devote the time and energy required to do the position justice

 They are unquestionably independent and objective

 They can articulate views clearly and in a controlled manner and tone

 They are invariably collegial team players

 They serve as ambassadors for the company

It’s pleasing to note that in our 25-year involvement in governance consulting and best practice governance, our major findings correspond in large measure with those of the eminent professor.

According to the Governance Matters ‘Top 10’, superior board members:

1. Know what they are there to do

2. Understand how the company or organisation works

3. Are diligent and conscientious

4. Have a sharp and inquiring mind

5. Have sound business judgment

6. Consistently display the courage of their convictions

7. Are articulate and persuasive

8. Are ethical and fair in all their dealings

9. Understand their own risk profile

10. Understand their shortcomings and are committed to continuous personal improvement

Over the next 10 weeks, we will take a closer look at each of these characteristics, one week at a time – and at the end of it, we will hopefully have made a positive and lasting contribution to the companies and organisations whose boards you serve on.

We’ll chat again next week, when we unravel just what it is board members are there to do.

Until then,

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