Australian Institute of Company Directors: Could you tell us about your background, not only in your executive career but in your board career as well?

Andrew Donovan (AD): My favourite sectors, as a director, are within the private and non-profit sectors but I’ve been an adviser for 25 years on boards across the spectrum in listed, private, government and not –for-profit boards. Before that, I didn’t have a linear executive career; I had a zig-zag career across a whole range of different specialities.

AICD: How do you think your varied experience has contributed to your board career? What value have you seen out of it?

AD: It has provided a panoramic view of the organisation in that you always look at the organisation from a broad perspective of where it fits within the industry and within the society and within the economy broadly. You have the ability to see things in a pattern across different organisations and sectors and see where it might be linked in the future.

AICD: What is your experience as an international director?

AD: I’m sitting on the board of the Closed Capital Group, an Australian Singapore-based company which gave me insight into not only Singapore but also Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a window into Asia both from a cultural perspective and a business perspective. What a lot of experts find in the differences between Asian and Australian business is that there’s still a lot of untapped potential in terms of bringing what Australian corporate governance and business has to offer and pairing that with the great future opportunities that exist in Asia.

AICD: Do boards have a role to play beyond setting the strategic direction of the organisation?

AD: Boards need to define what value they are really adding to the organisation’s strategic direction. Often boards will say that they’re defining the direction, but all they’re doing in reality is approving a plan from management. That attitude gives them more a congratulatory role than an evaluative one.

They actually need instead to be an active participant in the shaping of strategy. Our focus is on what the board lends to the organisation that is distinct from what management is delivering.

AICD: Why should directors sign up for the International Company Directors Course (ICDC)?

AD: Directors should do the ICDC because all business is now global business. There’s no such thing as an Australian business, there’s only a global business that’s based in or started in Australia. That goes for small businesses and not-for-profits, as well as large corporates.

In that context, the AICD provides a very global view of corporate governance that’s appropriate not only for a company that operates internationally now, but for any company that can capitalise on the global context in which we now do business.

AICD: The AICD’s facilitators often bring a lot of their personal experiences, as well anecdotes from their own careers, to help bring the content of courses to life. Is this something you do based on your many years of experience?

AD: I curate the conversation, stories, case studies and the experience of the participants themselves. That includes content that comes from AICD course materials and case studies, content that comes from one’s own lived experience and content that has come from the lived experience of the other participants. I bring that all into a conversation.

AICD: What do participants walk away with at the end of the five days of the ICDC?

AD: What I want them to walk away with is a sense of what it means to think, behave and act like a director. It is a shift in mindset because the ICDC participants are highly experienced and highly successful professionals.

The main takeaway for me is to understand how you translate all that fantastic value that they have from their professional experience and apply it in a different way. It is the same experience and the same knowledge, but you apply it differently in the boardroom context.

Click here for more information on the International Company Directors Course.