By Kirsty McManus, National Director, Institute of Directors (IoD) Northern Ireland

It goes without saying that building a new business or leading an established organisation requires a tremendous amount of skill, much of which comes naturally to those in leadership positions.

For that reason, many senior directors fulfil their roles without having ever received any formal training.

That is of course a marker of the quality of those leaders – but how much more could be achieved with additional investment in professional management and leadership development?

Research commissioned by IoD NI last year revealed that businesses that made such investments reaped major positive rewards as a result.

The study, which sought to determine the value of professional development for managers and directors, found more than half of business leaders that underwent training said it had a positive impact on their organisation’s productivity and skills – two of the most common issues raised to us by our members.

Other key findings from the research, which was carried out by Baker Tilly Mooney Moore, included that 41 per cent of business leaders that had undergone management training said it had resulted in increased turnover while 53 per cent agreed that staff retention had improved.

However, it is not just the IoD that has been making the case.

Previous findings from McKinsey & Co for its Global Management Matters survey showed a direct correlation could be made between high competency among managers and productivity.

It found a single point improvement in management practices (which it rates on a five-point scale from ‘worst practice to best practice’) is associated with the same increase in output as a 25 per cent increase in the labour force or a 65 per cent increase in invested capital.

Last week, acclaimed strategy consultant and change facilitator Simon Haslam addressed IoD members at two special events that highlighted the importance of investing in professional development.

He posed a number of probing questions, such as: do we as leaders understand strategy, do we have a process for the making the right type of decision, and are we even asking the right questions.

The answers to these are key to ensuring our businesses are on the right track towards greater success and safeguarded against future pitfalls.

Simon is one of the leaders on our programme of professional development courses.

To date, more than 900 directors across Northern Ireland have successfully achieved the IoD’s Diploma in Company Direction, signifying that it is the qualification of choice for directors.

The diploma, provided through the IoD Academy, equips leaders with the all-round skills, knowledge, and understanding essential for successfully directing an organisation from a strategic perspective, covering key areas of governance, finance, strategy, and leadership.

It is the first step towards achieving Chartered Director status which has been bestowed on more than 60 leaders in sectors across Northern Ireland.

Focusing on the IoD’s Director Competency Framework, the Academy addresses so-called ‘soft skills’ by putting knowledge of finance and business strategy on the same level as the ability to encourage diverse views, communicate effectively and make decisions in the face of uncertainty – thereby ensuring your business reaps the rewards of your own development.