You have probably thought about this for quite some time and are sure that at a certain stage In fact, there’s hardly anyone I meet in the business world, who doesn’t wish to be invited to serve on a board as an NED.
Although being an NED appears to be highly desirable, prospective NEDs shouldn’t simply grab the first opportunity that comes along but take time to conduct in-depth research and ask themselves some tough questions.
According to Dr Sabine Dembkowski of Better Boards the market is quite transparent and if anyone wants to flourish as an NED, these are the five key questions you should ask yourself
- Do I understand the challenges of the organisation?
- Can I really add value to this board?
- Do I fit into this organisation?
- Can I really listen?
- Do I honestly have the time to read the board papers and prepare for every meeting?
Do I understand the challenges of the organisation?
It’s common place for candidates to be so excited about having the opportunity to serve as an NED they forget to do vital research.
What is the real situation of the company? What is the financial situation? Are there any lawsuits hanging over the organisation like a Damocles sword? What are the real challenges?
Remember, your name and good-standing will be associated with the organisation you are about to join. You want to be part of a success story. What you don’t want is to find yourself sitting on the Tube, hiding behind your paper because you can’t bare the idea of anyone recognising you.
Can I truly add value to this board?
Without doubt, there is increasing professionalism in the boardroom and the days where you could show up 4-6 times a year and enjoy a good lunch are to a greater extent well and truly over.
The best way to ensure you have a thriving NED career is to ask yourself, up front, the tough question: Can I truly, truly add value to this board?
Your performance on any board will contribute to shaping your personal brand and profile in the market place!
Investors and the public market have become much more savvy and can assess and measure performance. Remember – you are part of the story of the organisation.
Do I fit into this organisation?
Research indicates that executives in any role flourish if their personal value system is a good fit to the values of the organisation s/he is working for. This applies, equally to NEDs!
It is strongly advisable that you meet your board colleagues and some key executives before you make your decision to assess if you and the organisation is a good fit.
Can I really listen?
When you have signed on the dotted line, take the time to listen, observe and learn.
At the beginning of an NED role, you will need to investment a considerable amount of time to understanding the organisation and all its issues.
The time you take here will be a good investment.
When you really get to the bottom of (or, at least, deeper into) the issues, start to have conversations outside of the board room to understand even more and then form an opinion about the best way ahead. Remember, prepare for the challenging questions you might be asked or wish to ask.
Do I honestly have the time to read the board papers and prepare for every meeting?
Research indicates that on average NEDs claim to take about 3 hours to read the board papers.
However, given the average length of board papers, and assuming an average reading speed, it is likely to take at least three times as long – more like 1 day.
One can only presume that there is either a misrepresentation of the time it actually takes or that NEDs do not read all that is available and the latter is a risky strategy!
If the board papers are too long, it is far better to admit that this is far beyond what you can read and either step away from the challenge or consider initiating a programme to cut down on the board papers once you have become established. There are some fantastic solutions available and much can be done to tackle the issue of unloved, lengthy board papers.
If you want to become an NED take the time, search your soul and, providing you can answer an unresounding “yes” to each of these five questions, you’ll not only be able to make a valuable contribution but you’ll also enjoy the experience of “sitting at the table”.