What are your current NXD positions?
“I have five rather different non-executive responsibilities: a NXD at the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, a NXD at the Social Investment Business, a co-opted member of the Nominations, Staffing and Remuneration Committee of Greenwich University, a trustee of TB Alert (a tuberculosis charity) and a Governor of a local primary school.”
What prompted you to explore non-executive roles?
“It was very largely my own experience of working with the NXDs from the large utility companies whilst at Gemserv. I loved the Board dynamics and could really see and appreciate the added value the NXD’s provided.”
How did you get your first NXD placement and what attracted you to that particular organisation?
“Through recommendation of an audit partner while I was at Gemserv. He pointed me towards the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. As I was a member of my own finance professional membership organisation, I could really relate to the purpose of a membership organisation.”
In your NXD roles what has been the most useful aspect of your previous management career?
“The multi-faceted experience of working across organisations and sectors delivering pan organizational projects. This has given me the ability to appreciate the helicopter view, cut through complexity and work with colleagues appreciating the diverse skill set required to deliver the whole. This has really equipped me well to deliver in a NXD capacity”.
What makes a business attractive to you as an NXD?
“A business that uses commercial means to deliver societal change and impact. The Social Investment Business, for example, provides a substantial source of support to impact led organisations . The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives has a robust commitment to driving greater diversity in the legal profession. I would like nearly everything that I touch to make a difference to society.”
Give us the three biggest lessons that you have learnt from being an NXD?
“The first is the importance of collegiality, this doesn’t mean agreement all the time. What it does mean is having the right environment to have constructive and effective debate. The second is having an open mind and being able to truly appreciate different perspectives. The third is to have self-belief and sincere convictions. You are there to put across alternative perspectives and at times ask challenging questions.”
What is the best experience that you have had as an NXD?
“Two, rather different, stand out. The first is at my Primary School we introduced a new nursery provision. This is harder than you might expect but it was also vital to the future of the school as birth rates locally have been falling and therefore the nursery intake acted as a feeder to the primary school. The second is being part of the Board that supported the development and investment in the new modern professional qualification for specialist lawyers- the CILEx Professional Qualification (CPQ)
What is the biggest problem that you have faced as an NXD and were you able to solve it?
“A toxic culture deep rooted at the top. Working as a collegiate Board was the key to resolving this issue which unlocked huge strategic potential for the organisation.”
What are the biggest medium-term challenges that you believe that boards will have to deal with?
“The sheer speed and pace of change is a real challenge today and over the medium term. Boards need to be super agile and find the right dynamic ‘sweet spot’ to navigate through:
short term returns and long-term focus,
having the right blend of relevant skills sets – the traditional skills together with the those more relevant to the sector/current environment; and
Having the right Board composition to be representative and engender diversity of thought.”
What advice would you offer those thinking of starting out on a portfolio career?
“Start while still working full-time. Focus on organisations which you know you will enjoy working with, have some affinity with. Explore networks for opportunities and consider undertaking pro -bono roles to build a portfolio”.