Directors ask the right questions to develop Situational Intelligence

Effective boards know how to ask questions of their organisations and board advisors. The opportunities for individual directors to ask searching questions are often greatest during their own due diligence activity through the recruitment, appointment and onboarding process.

Remaining curious and asking challenging questions is an essential strength for any director. Vigilance is better than complacency given the significant responsibility and liability which directors carry.

Rigorous questioning can establish:

Fashion or true sentiment

Initiative or strategic intention

Clear purpose or agile rebranding

True or disposable values

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It pays dividends to develop a real understanding of the context in which you are expected to add value as a director.

Words matter, behaviour must follow

Over decades, business language has developed. Fashionable boardroom vocabulary adopts three letter acronyms referencing philanthropy, socialisation, corporate responsibility, compliance, governance, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, diversity, inclusion, environmental conscience. The words which leaders use may change but to be trusted, true sentiment must be apparent and behaviour must follow.  A strong foundation for trust is to develop a clear and common understanding of what the words mean.

Purpose - why we exist

Purpose guides strategic choices, provides clarity and a rationale for activity.  It is seen by internal and external stakeholders and can guide consistency of messages. Director due diligence pre-appointment will often involve making judgements on the clarity and resilience of an organisation’s purpose.

Culture - what we believe and how we behave

Our values are evidenced by what we choose not to do as well as what we do and how we do it. Shrewd Director candidates use every opportunity to establish the extent to which beliefs, principles and values are embedded in an organisations’ practices. Beyond a menu of fine words is the reality of what is acceptable behaviour. Valuing difference underpins the practices which deliver diversity and inclusion. 

Strategy - what we aspire to be and how we will deliver that aspiration 

Multiple metrics arrive in the boardroom. Newly appointed Directors are in the privileged position of contributing to and observing strategic decision being made. Astute individuals notice what really drives strategic decision making and the success with which the organisation balances the requirement for short term performance with the need to build long term stability. Understanding the board’s appetite for risk and change and the level of organisational agility, helps newly appointed directors to challenge effectively.

Stakeholders - who we choose to work for and with

Our brand is a promise to our stakeholders. In a transparent world, all stakeholders can see the promises we make to each other. We are judged on whether our promises are fair and whether we keep them. If we can’t keep our promises we are judged by the clarity with which we explain why. In today’s turbulent world, demonstrating an understanding of  the attitudes, aspirations and intentions of organisational  stakeholders is one of the most critical strengths a newly appointed director can evidence.

Responsible business

Government, regulators, investors, talent and consumers are among the many stakeholders calling for clarity on the ways organisations make strategic decisions, prioritise and implement those decisions. Evidence is required to demonstrate materiality, commitment, action and the impact of initiatives.  The way in which a board formally and informally reports progress and performance is critical in developing stakeholder perceptions of the voracity of the board. Being a director is not for the faint hearted.


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