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What development do we require for a Chair role?

Chairman’s Network – Network session - 15th January 2020

In preparation for the meeting the meeting facilitator cited 2 documents, both available from the Chairman’s Network web pages

  1. The role of a Chairman – from a facilitated session of Chairs and NED's run by Barry Gamble
  2. 22 Traits of a Good Chairperson

The meeting was well attended with a diverse group of women. The discussion was wide ranging, interactive and stimulating.

Key points were:

  • The skills are often those that can be developed through an Executive Career, but the context and the application of those skill can be very different – especially for a Non-Executive Chair. For example:
    • Setting an Agenda in the Chair role tells a story about priorities, makes a meeting manageable and may also be governed by regulatory requirements
    • Personal development discussions with NED’s is quite different to those who have an employment contract and are directly line managed.
    • The Board is both a team, and not a team. They are jointly and severally liable. Facilitating discussions with a disparate (and hopefully diverse) group requires a higher level of skill than the usual team meeting
    • Coaching (and in some cases mentoring) the CEO is a key requirement and as such a breadth of coaching style and the ability to be flexible will be required.
  • Training organisations discussed (not a complete list of everything out there) for some of the key skills and knowledge included:
    • Chairman’s Network – Peer group training and knowledge sharing
    • Charity Commission – good quality, high standard of training focused on Charities
    • Leadership Foundation – good quality training for Higher Education and Public Sector Boards
    • N.E.D.A. (Non-Executive Directors Association) e.g. In Feb 2020 have a “Chairing Meetings” training event for aspirant Chairs.
    • Talk to role models and start an exploratory conversation
  • Different types of Boards will have some different requirements for example:
    • Public sector roles may require discussions with politicians and the press – both of which are specific skills
    • Family owned businesses
    • F.T.S.E. and AIM listed companies have a need to understand and carefully manage shareholders, many of which may be large influential companies or pension funds
  • There was a brief discussion about the pitfalls and challenges of being an Executive Chair as opposed to a Non-Executive Chair
  • There was also a discussion about the use of younger N.E.D's to provide input from the ground floor and/or to bring innovation to the Boardroom.
  • Key skill areas were
    • Managing the dynamics of a Board – and the view that this is best learned through the judicious use of a coach or mentor
    • Self-observation – to notice the effect that as a Chair, you are having on the Board and be able to tailor behaviour
    • Two skills that need to be in balance
      • Listening skills
      • Facilitation so everyone is heard and the conversation is directed
    • Leadership – whilst holding the context – to bring the discussion to a conclusion and enable decision making
    • Setting the Board development Agenda
  • On discussing the Board development agenda, we noted:
    • It slightly depends on the experience of the Board members and the focus of the organisation
      • A small or medium sized charity or Nor-for-profit might find they attract Trustees with little or no business experience and require not only an intensive Induction pack but also ongoing training in key areas like safeguarding, cyber security and G.D.P.R
    • A skills matrix to ensure all key areas are covered is a useful tool

Thank you to Member Nikki Cole for hosting this session.