April 03, 2023

Carlyle Journey to Non-Executive Breakfast - Key Takeaways

As part of Carlyle’s Journey to NXD series, we were delighted recently to host our guest speaker Linda Urquhart OBE, along with fifteen guests from our network, to share insights and informal discussion around the subject of embarking on a Non-Executive Director career.

A thought provoking yet highly practical event with much to discuss, there were a number of key issues raised and subsequent advice given to help bring greater understanding of the role to those individuals who are considering such a move, as well as for those who have already begun what is often seen as a challenging yet rewarding Board portfolio career.

Some of the takeaways gathered were:

  • Market yourself – capitalise on your existing professional network. Update your contacts that you are keen to pursue a Non-Executive Director role and invite them to introduce you to contacts in their network. Ensure you have a clear narrative to share around what industries are of interest, the relevant experience, and skills you bring, and importantly what value you can add to a Board. Review and update your CV and LinkedIn profile and make sure they highlight those areas that will be attractive for such a position.

  • Identify with the organisation’s purpose – it is important to be clear about the type of organisation you wish to work for and in turn, ensure your motivation is the same. What does it stand for, and do you align with its values and mission, do you agree with the ‘why’? If you are confident and believe in their purpose then it is more likely you will be able to make a valuable contribution.

  • Ensure you are granted full company access – a fundamental role of a Non-Executive Director is to provide third-party oversight of a company and how it is run by its management team to ensure accountability. It is therefore critical that whichever organisation you choose you are granted complete and free access, especially as you are not involved in the day-to-day running of the business.

  • Spend informal time with your fellow board members, and company employees – insight as to how an organisation is run is critical to being an effectual Non-Executive Director, so it is important to listen, question, collaborate, and discuss issues with colleagues at Board level and also company-wide, whilst sense-checking these matters as you feel appropriate.

  • Prepare questions in advance of Board meetings – key characteristics and competencies of an effective Non-Executive Director are communication, the giving of balanced advice, and having sound emotional intelligence. All of these are enhanced by comprehensive Board meeting preparation and by immersing yourself in the operational environment of the organisation from day one through Board papers, annual reports, media coverage, social media etc.

  • Bring in different perspectives from previous roles – ever-changing global issues and threats to business continuity including from reputation management, health and safety, digital & cyber, sustainability and ethics mean that breadth of experience is key when it comes to being an impactful Non-Executive Director.

  • Manage your time commitments – leave space within your schedule for when the organisation has exceptional demands on your time and remember to allocate time for proper meeting preparation and for fulfilling all the duties specified in your contract.  Be cautious about taking any role that doesn’t have a calendar of Board and committee meeting dates laid out and remember to advise should your time commitments change.

  • Speak with your other NXDs but be wary of holding too many conversations outwith the Board – you can use these conversations to get an idea of dynamics in terms of how the Board operates, i.e. what kind of culture exists, are discussions informal or formal? Take the opportunity to share ideas and bring out positive qualities in each other. Ensure that key conversations that should take place in the Boardroom do so, with all Directors present.

If you are interested in hearing more about our Journey to NXD series or about our Board Practice please get in touch with us at info@carlyleassociates.co.uk.

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