This is the second of a two-part blog series on the role of the NED where we share insights from Christine Cross, experienced FTSE NED and speaker at our recent NED: Do I or Don’t I event.
Joining the non-exec world is an attractive option, but before you make the leap, you must be sure you’re suited to the NED role. Then you need to find the right NED positions. Before you take any big decisions, here are seven questions to ask yourself.
1. Am I ready to switch from exec to NED?
This one is the biggie. It can be hard to give up that day-to-day operational influence. If you feel you have one more executive role in you, go for that instead. Perhaps look to take on just one non-executive role to smooth the transition to a multiple portfolio.
2. Do I want to be an advisor or a NED?
If you’re ready to share your experience and insight, then a NED position might sound perfect, especially if you’re comfortable with the governance side of the role. However, if you’re keen to play a hands-on role with a direct impact, then you might prefer to become a board advisor – a position many companies use to complement a small, core board team.
3. Which kind of company is right for me?
Joining a PLC board is very different to joining a private company. Sectors like private equity have their own individual quirks. It’s important to decide which is better suited to you. In a PLC, you’re working within their own governance arrangements for audit, remuneration and sustainability. In private companies, you can expect to play a more direct role in supporting owners. In private equity, NED expertise is often required in shorter, intensive periods, giving you the chance to roll your sleeves up.
4. Am I prepared for the time commitment?
If you’re going to become a NED, you have to be comfortable with commitment. It’s vital that you can make the time for preparation and that you’re happy to stay abreast of the market and the company. Eight board meetings a year translates into about 24 days’ work (usually you need a day either side). There will be strategy meetings on top and other requirements too.
5. Am I wanted for the right reasons?
Once you’ve found a firm that’s interested in you, make sure their rationale for wanting you is right. Beware of boards ticking boxes. They should want you for the different perspectives you can bring – not because you ‘look’ right or will help fill a quota.
6. Will I get what I want from the role?
There has to be a give and a get for a NED role to work. It’s easy to be distracted by the reputation of a company and neglect to assess whether the role will satisfy you. You have to be sure that you can contribute – and continue to learn. You need to be in tune with the company’s culture. And you have to like the people. It will feel like purgatory if you don’t.
7. Is the dynamic right?
Finally, when you have found a role that does seem right, you still have to decide if the chemistry is there between you and the current board members. Selection interviews are all very well, but you need more than that. Ask to arrange one-to-one meetings with all the board members – you have to see if there will be respect and trust. Best of all, sign an NDA and attend a board meeting yourself. Get a sense of the group dynamic to see if you will flourish in that setting. You’ll be glad you did.