Rules of Offside for Directors: The Importance of Induction

Why is the induction stage of an individual’s employment with you key to the future of his or her work with you? Here Janhavi Dadarkar, CEO and founder of Maiora, answers that question for CEO Today.

Many years ago, I had to step in as a manager for a local youth football team starting with an important cup fixture for the team and club. It struck me during that game, how much the corporate and football worlds have in common. Both court controversy around exorbitant pay, retaining talent, stakeholder management, and the integrity of the people involved.

As I took charge of 14 or so hopefuls, with all the weight of the expectations of the club, parent and supporters, the issue most obvious to me was how little training there was for me as a manager.  Having played in football teams and worked with football clubs (both locally as parent helper and professionally with the FA), I had plenty of experience of the theory and practice. Nevertheless, as with new directors, no matter the level of the club or the size of the company, experience is no substitute for proper training. So, here are my top three tips for directors from my short-lived managerial career as to the benefits of a proper induction to help directors avoid the offside traps in business.

Use the induction process to define success and stakeholders. Whatever you decide to call it, from orientation to induction, some guidance on the expectations and rules of engagement before you take on a leadership role means you go in eyes wide open. My first game in charge of the football team was an emphatic win but as anyone who has managed a football team (at any level) will tell you, there are several stakeholders and they all have opinions. Managing a team to “success” is therefore, about much more than winning the game! You must articulate “success” in conjunction with your key stakeholders, who need to be satisfied of the value. Whether its oil sheikhs, oligarch owners, pension funds or friends and family supporters, you need to be clear what “value” is anticipated and attainable. Remember too, that definitions of value are much more than simply short term cash returns in the form of dividends for your primary shareholders – value inherently should include the company’s perspectives on wider stakeholders, societal norms and standards. An induction should thus prepare the director to appreciate their role in the company’s “success” and how it will be measured including the expectations of key stakeholders. As a director, no point taking on a role where the corporate vision of the stakeholders is unattainable. As a manager too, a solitary win won’t save you if you don’t manage expectations. In the premier league owners don’t hesitate to sack even those considered the best managers. In the corporate world, shareholder sackings may be the least of your worries as the responsibility for failure of a company ultimately remains with the board (of which you are a part) and the penalties could be more severe than simply a sacking.

Use the induction process to start building trust. Being a woman of Indian background, one of my biggest challenges in both the football and commercial spheres is to convince the boys (or men, if you prefer, and it nearly always is the males that I must convince), I know what I am doing. An induction process for me is therefore crucial for me to get to know people, their biases and strengths and equally for others to realise my skills and mind-set even before we are in a board room. The skill of a football manager is to build great dynamics in a team and as a director, boardroom dynamics are the litmus test for effective governance so the induction process should incorporate systems that help build trust and improve cohesion especially amongst new recruits to the board.

Use the induction process to understand frameworks. Collective responsibility, a principle tenet of any team game, is fundamental to a board too. If one team member makes a mistake, the whole team could suffer. Mistakes can never be eliminated, especially as entrepreneurial risk taking is an integral part of business but these should be within prudent frameworks to avoid an “own goal”. The induction process enables both the company as well as the director to highlight systems and processes that mitigate risk and prevent one person’s mistake becoming endemic.

Many cynics regard footballers (including the managers) and company directors as similar in two key aspects – their overinflated egos and remuneration packages. For the world of commerce, this public perception must be improved and therefore the right approach to governance, training and induction of the key leadership must be at the forefront of every company’s strategy. It is no guarantee of success but at least directors will have a better idea of when they are straying into an offside position!

Janhavi Dadarkar is the CEO and founder of Maiora, a Governance, Strategy, Risk Mitigation and Training consultancy. A corporate lawyer by background Janhavi has advised over 200 companies and enterprising individuals from public and private sector and from FTSE 100 to start-ups.

She continues to advise companies in a non-executive director capacity and is the Programme Lead for the Institute of Directors’ Role of the Director course as well as course leader for the FA’s “Women’s Leadership” programme, run in conjunction with the IoD.

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