Winning your first Non-Exec role can be both exciting and challenging. Recently, I received a question from someone who has been newly appointed as a Non-Executive Director (NED). With over 20 years of experience as an attorney, they were confident in their legal expertise but sought guidance on leading in areas beyond the legal realm. If you face a similar situation, here’s what to do:
1. Embrace your achievement
First and foremost, it’s essential to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishment – securing a NED role is really difficult! There will often be hundreds of applications for one place. You’ve got one of these places, meaning people already see lots of potential in your knowledge, experience and skills. This means that whilst you still do have things to prove, you have already cleared a huge hurdle and should take confidence from that.
2. Realise that you don’t have to be an expert on everything
Additionally, a board is intentionally comprised of people with very different skill sets to avoid as many blindspots as possible. And this means that you don’t have to be an expert on everything. There will be are likely to be finance people and people-people, legal people and marketing people.
Whilst you will want to use your experience to have an opinion on a wide range of areas, in the early days you can lean on your legal expertise to make your contributions, whilst you learn what you might want to say about more general business topics.
Alongside this, don’t feel you have to speak up all the time to prove your worth. If you save contributions for when they are going to add to the discussion, everyone will pay close attention to it. If you’re always chipping in, you have less impact.
3. Get ready to learn and grow
You should also seek out all the opportunities to learn and grow that you feasibly can in relation to your role, the business, its industry, and related industries. This should be through formal means and informal. You are likely to find that, as a part of your role, you are given access to board-level training and it’s worth taking up all these opportunities. You can also seek out informal opportunities yourself as there are lots of resources available online to those transitioning to board positions.
Finally, I recommend building relationships with the other board members other key stakeholders, which will help you to develop your understanding and derive further benefits from your board membership.
Three resources to help with board membership
- Starting well
Aceing your first 90 days as a board member
- Board Dos and Dont’s
Practical advice for handling a board position
- Are you ready?
Guidelines for deciding if you’re ready to be on a board
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