How Great Boards Attract Great Directors – Part Two

Having arranged hundreds of meetings between prospective directors and client boards, there is consistent feedback about what makes one candidate stand out above others.

Our observations on what makes a Great Director are offered here:


Great Directors:

  1. research the business and identify where they could add value;


  • Have I explored the business thoroughly enough to ask challenging questions about the future? (Requires reading and research and preliminary discussions to demonstrate real interest and genuine capability) Who are the main shareholders/stakeholders? Why does the board need  a new director?
  • Can I succinctly articulate where I could add value? (Researching where the business is heading and the opportunities that are available will demonstrate interest and capability).


  1. are realistic about their capabilities, experience, and qualifications;


  • Do I have experience at the right scale/in the right industry/at the right stage of maturity for this business?
  • Do I have demonstrable and recognised achievements or track record that speaks to my experience, and will my referees endorse those claims?


  1. offer a valid and different perspective to existing board members;


  • Where would I add value to those already on the board? (Boards look at four groups of criteria – Experience– the types of organisation you have worked in; the location; the funding; the ownership and the maturity of the business; Industry – have you worked in this industry or at least understand its structure and key players, regulatory environment and main opportunities; Functional expertise – such as legal, CEO, CFO, capital markets, brand management, finance, CIO or CTO, audit, distribution; Diversity – what is the existing make- up of the board and would you complement that in terms of diversity? (eg Age, Geography, Cultural, Linguistic, Gender, Cognitive or other dimensions.
  • Who else is on this board and what are their backgrounds, tenure and personal styles?


  1. understand the governance model and appreciate what is required;


  • Have I worked with this type of business before? (eg Publicly listed; Privately owned; Government; Mutual; Pre IPO; Professional or Industry Body; School or University; Community organisation)
  • Does my background fit where this business is in its life cycle? (Start up; Rapid growth; Mature; Stagnant; Distressed; Acquisitive) How will my contributions be assessed?


  1. are not over-boarded or conflicted;


  • Do my current commitments give me enough time to focus on this role? Do I have the energy and the bandwidth for this role? Most roles will conservatively require around three times the amount of time that the board spends in meetings – so 10 meetings per year at half a day (5 days total) will require at least 15 days.  Many require considerably more as Director’s duties and responsibilities expand. This time will be spent in: Travelling;  Reviewing papers; Committee membership; Meeting preparation and follow up; Education and development; Attending events and functions.  A chair role can require considerably more – a factor of five is more realistic.
  • Will my other roles complement or conflict with this and do I need any clearances before accepting? Do any of my other roles present a conflict of any sort? Values?  Industry?  Profit of Not for Profit orientation? Market positioning?


  1. can present coherently and show an appreciation of the challenges facing the business;


  • Do I understand where the opportunities (and threats) are for this business? Am I prepared and willing to ask about these and have an informed discussion, rather than be prepared to respond to questions only?
  • Have I prepared well enough to demonstrate the relevance of my experience? Can I translate what I know to this business and what would be the most effective way of demonstrating that?


  1. can engage well with others and can contribute beyond a single area of expertise;


  • How do I fit the selection criteria and who would I complement on the board? Will I be seen just as ‘the tech guy’ or ‘the audit woman’ and limited in where my experience and opinions will be valued?
  • Am I confident that there is an opportunity for me to contribute beyond my core expertise? What would I bring that is different from those already on the board?  (Beyond specific industry experience and diversity considerations, some of the most sought-after areas include Financial expertise; Strategy development; Commercial success; Risk and Audit experience and qualifications; Senior executive or CEO experience; HR and Remuneration; as well as industry specific knowledge and experience).


  1. offer a good cultural fit for the business and the board;


  • Am I comfortable with the core business and do I feel confident this aligns with my personal ‘brand’? What is my brand and how do I stay true to that and potentially move to other industries or types of board?
  • How do the values espoused by the board fit with my own beliefs and operating style? How would I go beyond what I have read to feel confident that there is a good alignment in this important area?


  1. are motivated by interest and an opportunity to contribute; and


  • Could I afford to resign from this board if I couldn’t add value or felt compromised? Being motivated by remuneration as a director will compromise your ability to remain truly independent.  Knowing that if significant conflicts arise, or your voice cannot be heard, you can simply resign will strengthen your ability to be a valuable director.
  • Do I really understand how this company makes money/delivers services and can I contribute to that?


  1. are ready to be considered.


  • Is my ‘personal dossier’ up to date and tailored to illustrate my relevant experience? (eg CV, Suitable referee details; Director’s Identification Number; Documents for any security clearances)
  • Do I need any permissions or clearances and will the timing fit with my existing commitments?



Please reach out to our team if we can assist with your current and future board commitments and aspirations.

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