8 quick ways for company secretaries to elevate their focus on board reporting
Tips to improve your impact on the board reporting process, whatever your level of experience.
Board reporting is one of the most important aspects of a company secretary’s role, yet what it involves is as varied as their organisations:
• Some focus on efficient processes, managing deadlines and stakeholders to dispatch a professional pack to directors on time, every time.
• Others apply a risk-focused lens, crafting tight resolutions, managing action items, and reviewing agendas to check the board meets all its responsibilities throughout the year.
• Among experienced practitioners a high-level focus is common, engaging across the executive team to influence their approach, identifying potential issues, and anticipating directors’ needs.
The most effective company secretaries do all of the above, staying on top of the fine detail while contributing strategic value through the insights they provide to management and the board.
How to amplify your impact
Whatever your role as a company secretary incorporates, there are a range of ways to elevate your focus in relation to the board reporting process:
1. Spend your time where it’s most important
What are the most important issues to be considered at the meeting? Make sure the agenda and the reporting pack reflect this. These reports can often be the last ones to be completed, so allow time to review them.
2. Keep simple things simple
Not every board report presents a strategic conundrum. Over-complicating the straightforward matters can be a distraction from the significant issues that need the board’s time.
3. Ask questions
If something doesn’t make sense, ask about it. Chances are, you won’t be the only one with the question. Addressing it leads to reports that are easier to follow for directors who aren’t immersed in the day-to-day business, and also deepens your own understanding.
4. Check the pack stacks up
Watch out for contradictions between reports in the same pack which may point to lack of cross-functional alignment. Also consider key dates and commitments in past reports to check for changes that warrant explanation.
5. Consider multiple possibilities
Decisions are often framed as a binary choice, particularly when seeking board approval. However, the reality often involves a wider range of options. When making a recommendation, reports should explore the consideration given to multiple possibilities.
6. Put strategy where you can see it
Keep a copy of the organisation’s strategic goals in easy reach at your desk or as a shortcut. Referring to it before reviewing draft board reports helps keep the big picture in view and consider how it relates to individual reports and the pack as a whole.
7. Delegate the detail
It’s hard to think about the big picture at the same time as the granular detail. Avoid getting bogged down in formatting and spell checking by setting clear expectations with report writers, using a streamlined template, and seeking support from admin staff.
8. Offer help early
Many managers may not have worked closely with a company secretary before so don’t realise the range of assistance you can provide. Building their understanding of your role benefits you both and leads to better quality board reporting.
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