4 things to ask yourself when considering a non-executive director role

05 November 2018

We recently hosted a women on boards workshop for ten of our retail and consumer clients. Led by Women On Boards (WOB) UK, it provided practical tips for taking those first steps to become a non-executive director (NED). Here are my top takeaways:

1. Is being a NED right for me?

A NED provides a moral compass to an organisation, adds an intellectual rigour and applies a forensic lens on operational issues. While executives have their heads down, NEDs need to have that vision for long-term survival.

How much time is involved? That depends on which NED role you take. Being on the board of a FTSE company usually means a meeting a month plus any committee roles and at least as much time spent outside of these meetings as in them.

How much do you earn? This can range from nothing (the money goes to charity) to around £90k for a FTSE company.

2. How do I find a NED role that’s the right fit?

There are a variety of non-executive opportunities out there, from FTSE companies to charities and sports boards. It’s important to search for a role that reflects your passions, but don’t limit yourself. There may be sectors and roles you’ve not thought about but start to feel a connection with as you search.

Networks are crucial to finding a NED role. They can provide introductions to people with inside knowledge of a new sector or board. Let people know you’re interested and find a reason to meet people of influence. Be brave. Be bold. Bear in mind, however, that under the UK Corporate Governance Code, listed company NED positions need to involve a search firm (or open advertising which rarely happens in practice).

Once you’ve found your niche, get involved, make a conscious effort and have a plan. Don’t worry about what you don’t know.

Where to start? With over 20,000 members, WOB UK is a strong, influential network that provides transparency on processes and vacancies.

3. How do I prepare for a NED application?

Whether it’s preparing your CV or for interviews, the following tips apply:

  • Don’t hide behind the organisation you’re working for. There are times when it’s relevant to reference an organisation but remember it’s about you
  • Use the language of the boardroom - chaired, led, influenced, change, strategy
  • Show off your external networks and how you can add value through these
  • You may not have non-executive experience but it’s important to highlight any executive and proxy board experience, such as being a school governor
  • Make sure you talk about your value add for that particular position
  • Pitch yourself at the right level, don’t undersell yourself
  • Name recognisable clients if possible
  • Be authentic - show who you really are
  • Skills such as presenting and understanding profit & loss are expected so think of other skills you’re good at such as handling the media or understanding digital experiences
  • A NED application is different to an executive one and is all about demonstrating the skills and experience you will bring to a board rather than what you achieved as an executive

Final pointers for interviews? Treat a headhunter interview as if it’s the final interview. Back up your achievements with examples and show off your personal qualities - are you thoughtful, a good listener, can you make tough decisions?

Recognise a way you can have a connection with the people sitting on the board. Be a convincing self-advocate and believe in yourself. Sit back, smile and enjoy.

4. What should I expect from my first board meeting?

So you’ve got your dream NED role - what now? Before your first board meeting you'll need to understand your role on the board, find out who your regulator is and what you need to know (treat the regulator as your friend), and open the board pack!

Your first board meeting is about gaining an understanding. It’s normal not to contribute much in your first year, let alone in your first meeting. Be confident about not knowing something (you can’t know everything) and remember you’re helping to steer a company’s strategy, you don’t have full control.

I hope that’s given you some food for thought when considering a NED role. For more information and support get in touch or visit the WOB UK website.

Lisa Hooker | UK Leader of Consumer Markets
Profile | Email | +44 (0)7802 882562

More articles by Lisa Hooker



Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear until the author has approved them.