“My IoD peers have become my team of mentors” Colin Coffey, CDir, FloD, NED
Chartered Directors attend a final interview before they qualify and Colin Coffey is one our most respected assessors. He believes board directors should understand their full range of responsibilities and that the IoD programme is a valuable qualification to achieve this.
On entering industry I was focused on the technical side of the business, having studied chemistry at university. I rose through the organisation to a technical-based board position and was part of the senior team tasked with turning the company around when it experienced financial difficulties. This involvement opened my eyes to the vast range of general roles available and I switched away from the technical side to take on more general management positions. Ultimately I became CEO of a business in Northern Ireland in parallel with becoming a director of a manufacturing company in London. I enjoyed the leadership aspect and helping people achieve their full potential.
As a new director, I wanted to prove to myself and those around me that I was be properly qualified. My first thought was to undertake an MBA but around this time the IoD was launching its new Chartered Director programme. The clarity of purpose offered by this training convinced me it was the better option. IoD training elevates the role of director to Chartered status and supports directors to understand their roles and responsibilities and be the best they can be.
In Northern Ireland the Chartered Director programme has always been cohort based and I enjoyed learning with a group of directors from many different walks of life; retail, government, regional and national businesses. Being able to discuss leadership issues with people from so many backgrounds opened my eyes to the challenges which are common across all sectors. I am still in touch with many of these individuals who continue to assist me today.
Becoming a CEO is achieving the ultimate business leadership role, but it can also be very lonely. You don’t want to show any signs of weakness so it can be difficult to talk to your board, your MD or your subordinates about your decisions. You need peers, and I found mine in the IoD, both on the course and through networking events. These IoD peers have become my team of mentors, giving me the confidence to make decisions with conviction.
If I am honest, I am easily bored and the Chartered Director training also helped me realise that my skills were transferable. Being a Chartered Director has allowed me to move around a lot throughout my career, working with companies that need to change anything from culture, people, teams or strategy. I currently have a portfolio of NED and chair positions in both in private and public organisations and my Chartered status garners respect and confidence from my fellow board members.
I believe in the IoD’s mission that ‘better directors build better organisations and better organisations build a better world’. Understanding risk, assurance and governance is so essential and directors are facing some significant challenges right now. The wider purpose and company culture of an organisation are becoming more important and challenges around recruitment and hybrid working mean that empathetic leadership is in demand.
When the chance to become a Chartered Director Assessor came up, I jumped at the opportunity and now I am part of the professional review group which gives the final say as to whether someone becomes Chartered or not. It’s fascinating to hear the wide variety of excellent answers we receive to the same 25 questions we ask everyone.