How directors behave rather than board structure determines corporate performance. Addressing members of the Kuwait Investment Companies Union the professor argued: “Too many boards avoid risks rather than create opportunities. Ticking items on corporate governance checklists will not avoid the massive write offs occurring at many banks. Sharper questioning and greater understanding are required.”
Coulson-Thomas believes “The corporate governance debate has focused upon whether or not the right committees and numbers of non-executive directors are in place rather than upon the behaviours of boards and their contribution to corporate success. It is what board members do, individually and collectively, that determines performance. New directors need to be contributors not courtiers or retainers.”
The Professor’s work with directors reveals that: “One does not need to be ‘good at everything’ to be selected as a director. Standing out at something can be more important than being quite good at most things. The deficiencies of individual directors can often be compensated for by the contributions of other members of the boardroom team, allowing people to play to their strengths.”
Coulson-Thomas believes: “Good direction is often about thinking rather than doing. Aspiring directors should really understand the difference between being a professional, a manager, an owner or shareholder and a director. Each of these roles can involve a particular perspective and certain responsibilities. People need to be alert to potential conflicts of interest.”
To be effective in the boardroom, a director must command the respect of colleagues. Coulson-Thomas explains: “Being an effective team player helps. Development activities should focus upon honing and demonstrating strategic awareness and perception, thinking, decision making, communication and inter-personal skills.”
Coulson-Thomas suggests: “Directorial ambitions should be made explicit in performance reviews and personal development plans. Preparation for a particular boardroom requires an understanding of the business environment, the company’s situation, how its directors are selected, appraised, remunerated and developed, how its board operates and the contribution a new director is expected to make.”
Working with companies in many countries Coulson-Thomas finds: “Multi-functional and business development experience, running a department as a profit centre and demonstrating contribution to the bottom line can all improve directorial prospects. Joining an inter-organisational team can broaden a viewpoint, while serving on a multinational task force or undertaking an overseas assignment can foster an international perspective.”
Specific directorial requirements will depend upon the corporate context and a board’s ambitions. Coulson-Thomas explains: “The nature, structure, composition and operation of a board should reflect the challenges faced by a company and the opportunities available to it. Those seeking to join a particular board should aim to fill gaps in the experience, knowledge and skills of existing members.”
Over 4,000 organisations from smaller firms to major corporations and Government bodies have participated in a research programme led by Prof. Coulson-Thomas which has identified critical success factors and successful approaches to the challenges faced by directors and boards. ‘Developing Directors’ explains how reservoirs of latent potential can be tapped by director and board development.
‘Developing Directors’ addresses a desire for better board and corporate performance as well as contemporary concerns over corporate governance standards. The new book identifies the knowledge, skills and personal qualities required by directors and defines the competent director and the effective board. It looks at the route to the boardroom and how to become a director, how directors are and should be prepared, and provides details of twenty four director and board development courses.
Developing the boardroom team, evaluating board performance and practical next steps are also considered. ‘Developing Directors’ is packed with exercises and checklists which have been specifically designed for boardroom participation. For those concerned with understanding and addressing the fundamentals the book also examines the development challenge, the roles of directors and boards, the distinction between direction and management and factors affecting team work in the boardroom.
Developing Directors is essential reading for chairmen and directors, consultants and trainers charged with the task of developing dynamic boardroom teams to lead the organizations of today. It draws upon the author’s extensive experience of working with directors and boards, and provides practical advice on identifying and developing the qualities, competencies, and approaches needed for greater directorial contribution, board effectiveness and corporate success.
’Developing Directors, a handbook for building an effective boardroom team’, by Colin Coulson-Thomas (ISBN 978-1-872980-32-4) is published by Policy Publications and costs £34.95 plus p&p
Twenty five new courses for directors and boards on particular activities that are vital for corporate success are also available.
The approaches of successful directors and boards are discussed in ‘Winning Companies; Winning People, Making it easy for average performers to adopt winning behaviours’ by Colin Coulson-Thomas (ISBN: 978-1-872980-72-0) which costs £24.95 plus p&p
Prof. Coulson-Thomas made his comments while addressing the Kuwait Investment Companies Union at the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Kuwait City. The corporate governance situation in Kuwait was discussed by Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf an experienced director and Professor of Accounting at Gulf University for Science and Technology.
Colin Coulson-Thomas, an experienced chairman of award winning companies has helped over 100 boards to improve board and/or corporate performance and spoken at over 200 national and international events in 35 countries. He is a member of the Professional Accreditation Committee and Board of Examiners of the Institute of Directors and the ACCA Governance and Risk Management Committee.