A lasting learning experience
Volume 28 Issue 1
Participants reveal how and why the Mastering the Boardroom program has made them better directors.
Graham Addison FAICD believes completing the Mastering the Boardroom program changed him as a director. “It taught me the importance of listening, observing group dynamics and the power of delegation to committees,” he says.
Dianne Hill FAICD has been a non-executive director for more than 16 years and also found this program extremely useful for her personal professional development.
“The learnings remain fresh and relevant, years on, and provide practical options to address the myriad activities and issues arising in the boardroom,” she says.
Mastering the Boardroom is designed for members with over five years of director experience, who have preferably completed the Company Directors Course.
Like Hill, many participants are from our Fellows member category which attests to the level of skill, knowledge and expertise that underpins their successful engagement in the program.
As with all Company Director programs and courses, learning arises from peers as well as through the construction of the program and the wealth of skills of the facilitators.
“The openness and honesty among like-minded board members who challenged and supported with every spoken and unspoken word, without fear or favour, was priceless for me in terms of professional development,” says Karen Howard FAICD.
What makes Mastering the Boardroom special is its basis in experiential learning, which engages the mind, emotions and action – a powerful trilogy when it comes to high-impact learning, designed to resonate well beyond the end of the program. Through a carefully constructed simulation, participants drive performance and deal with diverse challenges for their companies. They can choose simulated boards from the publicly listed, private or government sectors.
For Derris Gillam FAICD, Mastering the Boardroom was about “crafting the art” of being a director. “It brings into focus how you interact and act. Simulations on real issues, amplified by working together for the first time as a completely new board and in compressed timeframes, create an environment that exposes and poses new thoughts for every individual involved,” he says.
“For me, it was about shaping my behaviour around the board table through my own actions and learning from others. It has helped me to better understand the dynamics of the boardroom and I am sure it has made me a better director. One of the advantages is the feedback from your fellow directors in the simulation and this helps in better understanding how your contribution is understood by others.”
Leith Boully FAICD also appreciated the insights the program offers into director practice and board behaviours. “I am now more aware of my behaviour and even more aware of the behaviours of others and the effect on myself and colleagues. I am practising effective ways of dealing with this.”
Clearly, this is not a “sit and listen, discuss and feedback” experience. It plunges participants into a boardroom with the environment and repercussions of their directorships as vital, valuable and vulnerable as that in any of their current director roles.
A facilitator becomes the sounding board and coach for each board, undertaking a role that teases out, challenges and stimulates thinking about what happens within the boardroom. Times for reflection are incorporated into the process to optimise the consideration of actions, behaviours, decisions and the myriad complementary, and sometimes conflicting, elements that contribute to boardroom interactions and responsibilities.
Participants appreciate The Chatham House Rule of the program that contributes to the “safe environment”, allowing them to explore different directorship behaviours in a way they may not otherwise feel comfortable with in a regular boardroom environment. This extends to the opportunity of becoming the chairman of the board, should they be chosen as such by their fellow board members.
Support for chairmen, extending to reflection and insights into their handling of their role, is a special feature of the program. The chairmen note how invaluable this stringent, but useful, feature is in testing their mettle.
Marelle Thornton AM MAICD notes: “The program highlighted the importance of the chairman being ever aware of reading body language around the boardroom table as a way of ensuring inclusive and open discussion and debate. As a result, from my position as chairman, I find I am more able to bring into play the views and opinions of all directors, ensuring comprehensive and robust discussion.”
Unlike the Company Directors Course with its legendary course notes, Mastering the Boardroom has a limited amount of preparatory reading, although board papers and support documents are provided during delivery. Additionally, there is the opportunity to undertake the advanced award following completion of the program. This is a prized accomplishment, but it is not compulsory.
The hands-on focus of the program is complemented by a series of discussion seminars led by guest directors. These interactive sessions directly connect to director roles and knowledge, stimulating discussion on future thinking for strategic boards, critical issues and lessons from current practice, and the dynamic between the chairman, the board and the CEO.
Guest directors have included Alan Cameron AO FAICD, Dr Ken Moss AM FAICD, Dr Cherrell Hirst AM FAICD, Sue Carter FAICD, Colin Galbraith AM FAICD, Graeme Kraehe AO FAICD and Susan Oliver FAICD.
“Mastering the Boardroom engages you, which means it has lasting impact,” says Gillam.
Howard adds: “I’ve applied some of the learnings from Mastering the Boardroom in boardrooms without even realising I’ve done so. That for me is the evidence of true lifelong learning – to have information permeate to a point where it becomes second nature to you, to think it, feel it, and speak it completely naturally is priceless.”