Blog / The Essential Skills Required to Become A World-Class Non-Executive Director
The Essential Skills Required to Become A World-Class Non-Executive Director
In this blog, Jo Haigh shares what she considers to be the essential skills every non-executive director should hold in their quest to be ‘world-class’.
No one person will have all the necessary skills to be the very best they can be, but some things are definitely some skills that are more important than others – especially when it comes to having a NED appointment.
If you can’t read and understand financial statements don’t even think about taking a seat at the board table.
You need a highly developed EQ, which is just as important, if not more important than an IQ! This includes being able to be both empathetic and assertive at the same time.
Creativity is also an essential ingredient. Every board meeting presents a different challenge of one kind or another and a great NED will be the one that can offer multiple and creative solutions to problems and issues.
Communication at all levels, in an out of the organisation, is a must. In my opinion, this includes verbal, written, formal and informal presentation skills. A good vocabulary is also useful, with an internal message to self not to use acronyms or so-called ‘clever words’ to catch people out.
A black book of contacts to die for is hugely engaging, make sure to be willing to share and support.
I’d like to say it goes without saying, that good corporate governance understanding is of course presumed, sadly this isn’t the case for many would-be NEDs. Make sure at the least you understand the legal essentials of good boardroom practice from The Companies Act point of view.
Whilst I am big on keeping board pack’s size to a minimum, sometimes and especially in a regulated business, that might not always be possible. It is something that should be encouraged to maintain a sensible level. One colleague in an NHS post tells me her board papers are regularly 800 pages plus long. If this is you, and goodness help you, being a quality speed reader is definitely going to help you manage your time better if nothing else, as there is nothing worse than coming to a board meeting having not read the papers properly, for you and anyone else.
Understanding risk and gaining an in-depth understanding of the organisation’s appetite and risk tolerance levels are also fundamental to the role.
A NED isn’t always necessarily a specialist in the industry you are working in. In fact, there is definitely some schools of thought that say if you have previously been immersed in the industry, you may find it difficult to fulfil the NED role as there will be a greater temptation to intervene with the executives. However, you need to learn quickly about the industry’s nuances.
Finally, it won’t do you any harm to become familiar with basic health and safety laws, employment law and basic contract law.
If you would like to read previously posted OnBoarding Officers’ blogs please click here.