The 'profession' of company director seems to be beset with an interesting challenge: how can or should young directors be introduced to boardrooms? In the eyes of the law, all directors are created equal. Young directors need to be competent and effective from the very minute they are appointed. Yet an important element of directing—experience and judgement—can only come from time spent in the boardroom. Do you see the Catch–22?
I have been exploring this challenge with directors in London, Leeds and Oxford this week. The prevailing view is that the profession has a problem. Many senior directors are reluctant to retire (the stated motivations are interesting in themselves, but that's another muse), and they don't seem to be interested in blooding new directors. Solid answers were few and far between. However, one option that did emerge was the notion of an 'apprentice director': one who is exposed to the full workings of boards and board practice, but without the demands of holding a formal appointment. The people I spoke with thought that apprentice director schemes may well have merit, but only if certain parameters are adhered to:
The notion of an apprentice scheme has considerable merit in my view. In-country directors institutes are ideally placed to take up the challenge of creating a scheme and of actively promoting its uptake amongst the boards of privately-held and publicly-listed companies. They should also consider 'accrediting' graduates (who would have to sit and pass an assessment), to provide a level of confidence to those recruiting directors.
If you have a view on this, as a director of a board that has considered or apprenticed a director, or as someone with an alternative suggestion to solving the inexperience problem, please share it here.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.