Directors’ skills matter to the staff they lead, which makes ongoing learning and development at the top just as important as it is for the remainder of a workforce, says recruiting experts Hays.
“Once people get to the very top of an organisation, it might seem that they have reached the end of their learning curve,” says Dean Stallard, Regional Director of Hays in Hong Kong. “But directors can benefit from specialised training to help them meet the unique demands of the boardroom and the heavy responsibilities they face.
“They may have got to where they are because they are the best at their job, but that doesn’t mean that learning no longer adds value.”
Corporate failures, from the demise of decades-old brands to the failure of global organisations to gain a foothold in lucrative new markets, highlight the breadth and significance of directors’ skills and strategic abilities – or lack thereof.
As Dean explains, “Such examples demonstrate that directors’ skills matter – not just for the ongoing financial success of the organisation, but to safeguard the jobs of the people who work for them. That’s why directors need to make time for their own continuing professional development. They owe it to the staff they now lead.
“Board members are often promoted from specialist manager roles such as sales, operations or marketing, and may not have been educated or trained in economics or business management. Promotions can also take place without a proper understanding of the extent of the duties and obligations under which this places them.
“While the checks and balances required to become a director vary around the world, there are core skills and expertise that directors need to learn if they are to be successful.”
Apart from the basic understanding of financial management, profit and loss, and how to grow and run the business, Hays says you should learn how to lead. “Directors need strong skills in leading rather than managing,” says Dean. “They need to be able to bring a team together so the whole is better than the sum of its parts.”
According to Hays, soft skills are also important so that you can listen to the opinions of others but put your opinion across clearly when necessary, challenge while being sensitive to the views of others, and gain the support and trust of your team. Directors must also learn how to walk the floor, talk to staff and stay in touch with key people.