The Elmbridge Shadow Board

We all know our learning journey shouldn’t stop. Podcasts, courses, articles, colleagues….we can learn from many different sources. To further improve our learning and development programme and to provide some of our aspiring managers with another level of learning, we set up a ‘shadow board’. Just like national politics where the opposition pull together a shadow cabinet with certain key portfolios, our group had the experience of being Elmbridge’s Corporate Management Board (CMB).

Our aim was to help the shadow board to understand more about corporate decision making, governance and risk management. We wanted to give them an understanding of board level decisions, as well as the practical skills and confidence needed to think and work strategically.
With the full support of our Chief Executive Robert Moran, Director of Resources Sarah Selvanathan and Director of Service Ray Lee who make up CMB, the programme delivered two core outcomes:

1.   giving participants practical skills-based development and
2.   supporting Elmbridge’s succession planning by increasing diversity of thought at the higher level of the organisation. 


The Shadow Board enabled our group to gain real experience of what it’s like to be a board member, but it wasn’t role play.  We wanted to bring to life the decisions, thinking and context that goes into running a local authority. We wanted to help the group appreciate the roles and responsibilities of our Directors, enhancing their understanding and making them more effective senior team members, better able to support the Directors.

What is the benefit for EBC?

We want our people to thrive. We want our people to see that they can grow and develop both themselves and their careers at Elmbridge and the shadow board supports that vision for our people.

We had 12 people on our first shadow board; in fact they are the second cohort of our Elmbridge Academy programme (our version of a future leaders programme). For their first experience, they looked at a new policy and at performance development.

Feedback from the group suggests that there is more to being a Director than they thought; the challenge of marrying longer strategic plans with shorter terms goals, as well as needing the confidence to make tricky decisions. More than one person in the group commented that they would definitely think more strategically in the future and when preparing reports they would consider the council’s strategic goals and role in the community.