I am thrilled to share that I have now completed the Chartered Director program at The Directors College – an Executive Program from the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University. The final step in the program was an exam March 5 – waiting for a week and a half! – then getting the good news this week I had passed.
The program admits qualified applicants with university degrees who are either currently sitting on boards, are senior executives who intend to serve on a board, and/or those who work with boards of directors. Applicants are assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they are suitable candidates for the C.Dir. designation.
I was thrilled to be accepted into the program in the fall of 2019. The program consists of five modules that I took throughout 2019 and 2020, culminating in a final exam that I successfully passed this month. Virtual graduation ceremonies are still to be scheduled in coming weeks.
Having successfully completed the course, I’ve officially obtained the university accredited Chartered Director (C.Dir.) designation.
This program and the related designation have provided me with a wealth of new skills, perspectives and insight both in my role as Mayor, CEO of the corporation and head of council (all responsibilities bestowed on mayors in the Municipal Act) and as a Board member of several local organizations including Burlington Hydro, Burlington Economic Development, and Conservation Halton. I know my contributions in these roles and around the council table, which functions much like a board, have been and will continue to be elevated as a result of what I have learned over the past 18 months. I look forward to the continued positive impact I can make in all areas of public service with this new designation.
The Chartered Director Program covers not only formal rules and practices, but also the behaviours associated with high-performing boards. It helps raise the bar for professional standards and the dynamic relationship between corporate governance and corporate social responsibility.
The related Code of Conduct has been formed to give guidance on The Directors College values and a moral and ethical framework for fulfilling our duty of public oversight as board members. Those values include being forward-looking and approaching difficult issues with an open mind; being trustworthy and engaging diverse stakeholders and different interests; and being change‐enabling. That involves being a catalyst for transformation, using collaboration for inclusive innovation; and using the influence and the moral authority earned by trustworthiness to build political and social coalitions for long‐term success and sustainability.
Directors commit ourselves to discovery (continuous learning and an open mind ), dialogue (welcoming diversity of thought and exchange of ideas), discernment (giving difficult issues appropriate discussion), decision (taking charge together, resolving conflicts, and challenging assumptions or tendencies for “group‐think”); and due diligence (engaging stakeholders to create win-win situations and following up on impacts).
Through the five learning modules I participated in, both in person (pre-COVID) and virtually, the following topics were covered:
Accountability and Change—Module 1
How governance is defined, rules and practices, and the characteristics of effective directors and high performing boards, as well as valuable communication strategies for group interaction. This module uses case studies and role-play simulations with actors to help you explore constructive solutions to challenging board situations.
Leadership and Strategy—Module 2
This module helps hone strategic thinking skills, understand the difference between strategic planning and operational effectiveness, and develop a strategic leadership style that fosters planning, measurement, accountability, and communication. Participants learn how to evaluate and set effective board and director expectations, plan CEO succession, balance stakeholder relationships, and review strategic planning for IT, risk governance, and compensation committees.
Oversight and Finance—Module 3
How to measure performance and align strategic objectives with financial results and overall success, explore board performance scorecards, as well as the details of internal audits, including the relationships and roles of the audit committee, the internal auditor and the management team. Further topics include risk oversight, learning from past governance failures and anticipating future governance challenges.
Effective Governance Under Complex Circumstances—Module 4
This module focuses on overcoming “knowing-doing” gaps in board performance—why we often fail to do what we know is best practice. Participants explore trending situations that require new approaches to governance in areas such as environment, social and governance factors (ESG), innovation governance and ethical decision-making. Participants also reflect on their own emotional skills while addressing governance cases dealing with reputation and crisis management.
The Board Simulation—Module 5
Unique to The Directors College, this final module lets participants experience realistic board situations, complete with professional actors to bring the simulation to life. The alumni rate this module as the highlight of the program, providing a dynamic opportunity to bring together all the lessons and behavioural strategies that have been learned throughout the four previous modules.
My learning and growth continues beyond the course itself as Chartered Directors are required to complete a minimum of 15 Continuing Professional Development hours per year to maintain our designation. More information about CPD can be found here.
My participation in this course was made possible through a custom program developed by the Directors College in partnership with The MEARIE Group specifically for the energy sector. It is open to qualifying board members serving on boards of participating utility companies. I want to thank Burlington Enterprises Corporation (parent company to Burlington Hydro and Burlington Electricity Services Inc.) for the opportunity to take the course alongside my fellow board members. All board members are offered an opportunity to take the course as part of BEC’s commitment to good governance, and in fulfilment of the mandate from their own governing body, the Ontario Energy Board, to ensure trained and competent directors serve on energy boards.
I am grateful to have had this opportunity.