This month the IoD launches its new Director Competency Framework – a guide to standards of professionalism for directors. Dr Claire Wardell explains how it will change the governance landscape and how you can access it
The UK might sit in a lofty position on global corporate governance tables but, in the first six months of this year, public faith in the competency of some of our business leaders has been shaken like never before.
We’ve had the issue of greed in the BHS scandal. Large multinational corporations lambasted for exploiting tax loopholes. City groups arguing that corporate pay should become more transparent. The Panama Papers. High-profile chief executives defending £60m bonuses.
Little surprise then, that one EY survey earlier this year found that one in four business leaders believes that corruption and bribery is “rife” in the UK.
For the decent, hard-working owner of a growing business, however, knowing exactly how they should behave or what knowledge they need at each stage can be confusing. Deciphering financial statements – is that your responsibility or your financial director’s?
As a leader, should you exude self-confidence or strike a more empathetic tone? Listen carefully to what employees say, or do things your way because you are the one with the experience?
To help you answer such questions, and many more, the IoD has created a blueprint for the attributes of good leadership – designed to be relevant across sectors, geographies and sizes of business, and available free for you to access.
The Director Competency Framework is a new guide to standards of professionalism for directors – previously such guides have tended to be profession or country-specific.
An indispensable manual for raising professionalism in yourself and others, the Competency Framework has been shaped by some of Britain’s most senior business leaders and governance experts, including Dr Roger Barker, Talita Ferreira (chief financial officer at BMW group) and senior staff at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Its aim? To set down standards of professionalism for directors, equipping them with knowledge of the areas they need to develop in order to perform effectively as board members throughout their careers.
Suzy Walton, an IoD board member, who helped craft the new guidelines, says: “The IoD’s new Director Competency Framework provides every member of any board, in any sector or industry or indeed any country, with a clear and comprehensive set of standards to guide their performance and development. It draws together the IoD’s many years of expertise and experience supporting and educating directors. This is the first framework of its kind to provide a holistic picture of the knowledge, the skills and the mindset that every director needs to bring to their role to be fully effective.”
With businesses of all sizes under more public scrutiny than ever before, the framework is an excellent way of grasping a director’s most fundamental duties. It is also a pragmatic way to help you pinpoint any gaps in your knowledge.
For example, you might be au fait with laws and regulations, corporate governance and the ethics of business. But as the Competency Framework identifies, it’s imperative that directors are financially astute too – capable of understanding accounting documents or evaluating the value of other companies.
Likewise, the Competency Framework’s ‘Skills’ section can help you identify the abilities and expertise you may need to develop. Strong decision-making and networking skills are naturally core constituents of any director’s DNA.
But today’s boss needs to be a proficient communicator too – listening empathetically to colleagues, yet being frank and candid when needed. And for executives who prefer to focus on matters of profit and loss rather than what’s happening in parliament, the Competency Framework explains why a grasp of modern politics is also essential.
By emphasising the need for directors to nurture their own ethical and professional ethos, the ‘Mindset’ section is a lasting reminder for leaders that they need to treat others fairly, take responsibility for their organisation and champion it, too (unlike Gerald Ratner’s company-trashing speech at the IoD Annual Convention in 1991).
There’s a responsibility also for ensuring your own company is healthy – such as fostering a ‘learning’ culture or encouraging diversity of thought among fellow board members.
Boards will find it invaluable too, particularly as a succession planning aid when selecting new directors, to evaluate performance or ensure the requisite knowledge, skills and behaviours are represented.
The Competency Framework can also be embedded into the syllabuses of in-house training courses for future leaders. HR departments will likely find it advantageous in 360 leadership reviews or as a benchmark when recruiting senior staff.
Lady Barbara Judge, chairman of the IoD, adds: “As a founder of the IoD’s Chartered Director qualification with many years’ experience as a director internationally, I believe this framework captures the essence of the competencies every director needs to perform effectively. It has never been more important for directors to be able to understand and fulfil their responsibilities with confidence and clarity, and yet their own learning and development needs are often overlooked. This framework provides an ideal blueprint for the director’s professional growth.”
Director Competency Framework
For more information on this initiative, visit iod.com/competency-framework