Could company secretaries benefit from coaching?
In the following article I suggest that coaching is the ideal way of helping Company Secretaries build the skills required to realise their full potential, particularly in smaller organisations where there may only be one or two such roles.
When I read the 2014 Henley Business School/ICSA report, “The Company Secretary – Building Trust Through Governance”, I remember feeling relieved. As an experienced company secretary, it felt wonderful to have someone recognise and articulate the challenges and satisfactions of this unique role, beyond its technical elements.
Here, I’ve set out the five key themes I took from the report. In my view, coaching is the ideal way of helping company secretaries to meet the challenges these themes present – and realise their full potential. What is your view?
- Soft skills are as important as technical ones. For a company secretary, soft skills are absolutely crucial. You need them to build and manage effective relationships, deal with difficult people and situations and resolve conflicts. They give you the confidence to influence, negotiate and challenge, and the emotional intelligence to adapt your language to suit different situations or personalities. You can use them to make important decisions, think strategically and deal with ambiguity. And they give you the personal impact to gain respect and be listened to – all while staying neutral and discreet.
- Many organisations fail to realise the potential of the company secretary role. This means you have an opportunity to raise your profile, build your role and educate your Board and organisation so they get the best possible the value from you. This is particularly true in the current environment, where there’s a growing focus on governance, and company secretaries need to respond to the changing demands of boards, shareholders, stakeholders and regulators.
- Reporting lines can be complex and challenging. A company secretary commonly has dual reporting lines, along with numerous dotted ones – with all the challenges that this brings.
- When it comes to career development, you’re on your own. Company secretaries are often responsible for their own career development and CPD, as well as building up the experience they will need for their next role or promotion.
- Resilience is everything. A high-performing company secretary is a trusted advisor, sounding board and keeper of confidences and corporate secrets. This means you need great integrity and the ability to stay neutral at all times. You can get caught in the cross-fire, too, so you need a thick skin, high resilience and strong coping mechanisms to manage the potential stress this brings. Finally, being both the independent party and the facilitator can be lonely – particularly during periods of uncertainty, complexity or change, or when you’re faced with corporate crises, dysfunctional political behaviour or moral dilemmas.
These challenges will no doubt be familiar to many of you. But how can you develop or fine-tune the soft skills you need to overcome them – especially when you can’t learn these skills in a classroom?
Building the soft skills you need to thrive and excel
Most people agree that experience and continuous professional development are the answer. But my experience is that working with a good coach lends itself brilliantly to development in these areas, and should form part of every company secretary’s CPD at some point(s) in their career.
Coaches work with their clients on goals they choose to help them reach their full potential. These can include preparing for the next step in their career, building resilience and confidence, developing new skills, making more of an impact and managing time better. All skills that will help you to realise your full potential, and help your organisation to achieve its objectives.
I’d be interested in hearing if other company secretaries agree with me. Do you think you could benefit from coaching (or already have)? If not, is it something you might consider in the future?
Let me know what you think!