Q: I am just starting a new position as the MD of a medium-sized company. How can I ensure board meetings are not an interminable waste of time?

A: Aside from the key avenues of governance that you and your company secretary must cover, a board meeting is like any other meeting but with your senior people. It is up to you how you run it, but there are certain clues in making sure it is effective within the shortest time possible. The agenda needs to be achievable and time-specific with key priorities set so that a few areas can be discussed in some depth.

You need to ensure you tease out from each of the board members their questions and views and watch their body language and make sure they don't tune out on their Blackberries and so on.

My personal preference is that meetings are never any longer than three hours remember, these are senior players who just need direction, it is not the time to micro manage how they are going to achieve the targets.

It also muddies the waters if you have lunch during a board meeting. You may choose to have a bowl of fruit but it is not a time to socialise, nor to eat at the same time as doing something as important as driving the company forward. You have a duty to your shareholders and employees not to your stomach.

I was appointed sales manager but six months down the line am still not doing the job I was recruited for. The previous sales manager was promoted to sales director but does not want to let go.

A: It sounds like your sales director is a very poor time manager. Most of us can't do two jobs, but remember, he probably still feels in his comfort zone as a manager and is understanding too slowly the needs of being a director.

Are you absolutely clear that you know what the director expects of you and is this documented? When you're next in a one-to-one, why not make the offer that you can do more to help him. Indeed, go further and ask him how his new role is shaping up and what his key challenges are. Don't be too impatient. You need to build trust with him and, secondly, clearly demonstrate you are delivering against every objective he has set you.

It might be a good idea, if you haven't already done so, to present your business plan for the next six months and use this as the basis for taking more responsibility. Your director may not know it yet but he will be very grateful for your maturity and commitment.

If you have a question for Sue, email her at sue@mountstevensexecutivecoaching.com.