Business leaders urged to concentrate upon fundamentals rather than the fashionable

Written by Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas FCMI - 19 October 2015

Global convention call for more focus on existing people and director and board development

So much emphasis is put upon recruiting new talent that we often overlook the importance of working with the people we have and ensuring they can cope with challenges, address opportunities and create a better future. We need to ensure that support arrangements are in place to enable people to remain current and competent, excel at key tasks and grow with a developing business.

Building tomorrow's boards is a challenge. We cannot be sure what the future will bring. Innovation and new competitors, challenges and opportunities may fundamentally change our aspirations, priorities and the nature of our organisations.

One can change the composition of a board. However, windows of opportunity can quickly open and close. Finding new directors, completing an induction process and becoming effective all take time.

Sometimes we may have to run with our existing people and take steps to ensure they stay relevant and vital.

While corporate governance has a higher profile, director and board development can be more specific. It can meet the requirements of individual directors and the needs of the board as a team. It can address issues as and when they arrive. It can support new models of organisation and ways of working, operating and directing that were not considered when governance codes were first developed.

Directors and boards should grow and develop as an enterprise expands, builds its capabilities, extends it reach and becomes more complex.

They should regularly review what they have learned after confronting a novel situation or taking a difficult decision.

Director and board development can match the evolving requirements of an expanding business and the growing confidence and ambitions of those involved. Yet sometimes it takes an obvious failure or new challenge to trigger acceptance of a development need.

Too often the qualities, experiences and competences of directors reflect where they have been rather than where they would like to go, or ought to go. Director and board development should be about preparing for the future rather than catching up and dealing with past deficiencies. It can address factors that inhibit better performance and embrace individual learning programmes and/or team activities.

Responsible boards commit to regular reviews and continuous learning.

Confident directors willingly assess themselves against directorial competences. They allow others to appraise them and comment based upon observations of how they perform.

Development programmes can prepare people for board appointments. They can help them to cope with the pressures directors face and the dynamics of the boardroom. They can enable individuals to add more value and can improve particular board processes and activities ranging from visioning to intelligent steering.

Director and board development can focus explicitly on behaviours and address any deficiencies, whether of individual contribution, inter-personal dynamics, how business is handled or how decisions are taken. Issues, areas and activities unaffected by governance arrangements can be confronted and improved.

Whether or not a company has a governance structure that is appropriate for its aspirations and stage of development we ought to be concerned that directors are competent and boards are effective. We need to ensure directors take the development steps needed to remain competent and effective as businesses grow, situations and circumstances change and new challenges and opportunities arise.

These comments draw upon Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas' remarks on building tomorrow's boards and director and board development at the international conference of the 15th London Global Convention on Corporate Governance and Sustainability which was held in the Ballroom at the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London, UK.

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas, author of Developing Directors, a handbook for building an effective boardroom team, holds board, public and academic appointments in the UK and abroad. He has helped organisations in over 40 countries to improve director, board and corporate performance. He has spoken at over 300 national and international conferences and his latest books and reports are available from

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas

Prof. Colin Coulson-Thomas FCMI, an experienced chairman of award winning companies and vision holder of successful transformation programmes holds a portfolio of corporate, public and academic appointments. He has helped companies in over 40 countries to improve director, board and corporate performance. In addition to chairing corporate boards he chairs the group audit and risk committee of United Learning, chairs the statutory Education and Registration Standards Committee of the General Osteopathic Council of which he is a lay member, is a member of the business school team at the University of Greenwich, Director-General of IOD India for UK and Europe and leader of the OLJ's international governance initiative. Colin is the author of over 60 books and reports, including ‘Transforming Knowledge Management’, ‘Talent Management 2', ‘Transforming Public Services’ , 'Winning Companies; Winning People' and ‘Developing Directors’. Since being the world's first professor of corporate transformation he has held professorial appointments in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, India and China. He was educated at the LSE, the London Business School and the Universities of Aston, Chicago, South Africa and Southern California. A Change Agent and Transformation Leader Award winner, Colin is a fellow of seven chartered bodies and secured first place prizes in the final examinations of three professions. He can be contacted at His latest books are available from

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