The importance of training for board members

Any board member knows just how much time, energy and effort the position needs. The role is broad, the liabilities likewise. New appointees (as with any job at any level) may arrive with enthusiasm but lack experience. Longer-standing members who do have that experience may make excellent mentors, but they too may be discovering a need for new skills and knowledge, not all of which they necessarily have themselves.

In this environment, a lack of skills or knowledge can carry consequences. Board membership comes with responsibilities for governance and a variety of legal penalties should those responsibilities not be fulfilled. Directors are also, by definition, at the top of the organisation, responsible for leadership and with the most potential for influence. Fair to say, a position on the board can also be highly pressured, stressful.

8 reasons why development is important for the board

  1. Clarity on roles and responsibilities – important for both new and experienced directors alike.
  2. Fulfilment of legal duties – clarity on what those duties are and the necessary actions for compliance; thus ensuring the organisation stays on the right side of the law.
  3. Better decision-making – board training can (arguably should) include a variety of prioritisation and decision tools and strategies.
  4. Organisational performance – improved strategic-level performance translates into better performance overall (directors have influence, remember?)
  5. Succession planning – a board training plan should not only cover the skills and knowledge needs of current incumbents but also identify those with the potential to be the board members of tomorrow.
  6. The board as team – joint development for all board members can (as with any other team) make for more seamless collaboration and communication.
  7. Motivation – like anyone else, board members are more motivated when they have some support in the role.
  8. Building a learning organisation – if you want the organisation to take learning and development seriously, the board must be role models.

Board member training – what should you include?

What should you include in a board training programme? The trite answer is, whatever your board is lacking, collectively or individually, that is necessary for your company’s success. More helpfully, the following list covers the basic topics and elements:

  • Leadership, management and ownership – the differences in responsibilities.
  • Setting the big picture – including organisational vision, mission and values.
  • Processes and practices for good governance.
  • The differences in board roles – e.g. between directors and non-executive directors; but also to appreciate specific individual functions within the organisation.
  • Organisational development principles.
  • Identifying, agreeing and communicating performance measures: strategic objectives, KPIs, etc.
  • How to run effective (board) meetings.
  • Stakeholder relationship management.
  • Corporate social responsibility.
  • Decision-making tools and techniques.
  • Presentation skills.
  • Negotiation skills.
  • Talent management and succession planning.

Regardless of what experience a new member has on appointment to the board, there is almost certainly a set of specific training needs to be met. Add to that the ongoing development that a) keeps the board up to date, and b) aims to improve the board’s functioning as a unit, and it’s clear board development is a continuous process, an ongoing activity, rather than a do-it-once checklist for individual members.


If you’re interested in training for board members or feel that your board could operate more effectively, why not check out our Boardroom Effectiveness programme of training events; or give us a call on 01582 463465. We’re here to help.

Categories: Boardroom, Training

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