Learning how to be a "critical friend" to management and asking hard questions at the right time are among the many benefits from taking part in Institute of Directors governance courses.

Several are to be held in Northland this week.

One previous participant, Debbie Evans, a chartered member of the institute based in Dargaville, and also on the Northland District Health Board, says the courses are invaluable, providing grounding and extension that adds value to performance at the Board table.

"I'd highly recommend people take up this opportunity to basically receive half price course fees thanks to funding from Foundation North. If you're serious about leading your community, stepping up into the local government arena, these courses are essential."


IOD provides Northlanders with an opportunity to enhance their skills which will lift the whole region, she says.

The first course - Are you on a farm board? Insights into the benefits that a board can bring to an agri-business - is on September 5 in Kerikeri, followed by Governance in Maori entities. Te Pae Hihiri on September 6 in Kaitaia.

These will be followed be three seminars in Whangarei: Not for profit governance on September 7, Understanding finance for directors on September 8 and How to oversee risk from the boardroom on September 9. Full details are at iod.org.nz/northlandcourses.

Ms Evans, who attended the IOD residential course in 2007 at the beginning of her three-year term as a ministerial appointment onto the Northland District Health Board, says she wanted to understand "best practice -- known as sound governance", and to have the confidence to sit at that Board table as a young female, informed, ready to contribute strongly, making strategic decisions on the future of health services in Northland.

IOD courses range from new to experienced directors, with new courses introduced to keep up-to-date with current thinking.

Ms Evans says the best Boards are contentious - "we are there to debate the policy. Diversity of thought ensures we 'add value' as a governance board".

"Having a 'helicopter view' is the easiest way to describe the difference between governance and management. The Board only has one employee - the chief executive," Ms Evans says.

"The difference between governance and management is the board ensures a good job is done and management does a good job."