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Reflections of a first year NED


NEDonBoard member blog

It’s two years since I made the decision to step away from Executive life and build a portfolio career as a non-executive director with the aim of getting more balance, and therefore, enjoyment in my life.

It took a year to finally relinquish my CFO role, but that year gave me time to work out what balance meant for me, explore opportunities, expand my network, and rekindle some connections that I had neglected.

Other experienced NEDs warned me that I could face many rejections before landing my first NED role, adding that once I had one others would follow fairly quickly. My applications did not lead to an appointment at the outset, and I questioned my decision, but soon enough I secured a couple of trustee roles with charities, and a few months later remunerated roles on boards. By March 2022 I had the portfolio and balance I wanted, enabling me to bring my skills and experience to organisations that represented my values and areas of interest.

After a year as a “fully fledged” portfolio NED here are a few of my reflections:

  • The only person that thinks you are an imposter is you. Most likely you will have been through a rigorous recruitment process and will been selected for attributes, behaviours and skills. Once you get to know your new board and organisation the imposter voice will quieten.
  • You have more value to give than you realise. Even in sectors that are relatively new to you, your lived experience working with and on boards, your personal perspectives, your technical expertise, and insights will add rich flavours to any board agenda and debate.
  • You need a balance of support and challenge. It’s tough for executive teams and boards, particularly given economic and social conditions, but challenge is part of the NED role – so structure your challenge with supportive language.
  • You need discipline and time management. Reading all the board or committee papers is an essential part of the role. It will enable you to ask questions, to properly understand what is in front of you and aid good decision making. The reading can take as much time as the meeting itself, potentially more.
  • If you are not assured about something, then ask for what you need to be assured. Eliminating risk is unlikely but assurance that mitigations are in place to reduce risk and that there is a clear path, within a reasonable timeframe, back to within risk tolerance is a critical requirement for governance.
  • It’s always a learning journey. There are CPD and regulatory requirements as well as good practice to improve the competency and knowledge around the board table, so make time. Joining a board network and participating in events is a good way to hear about current board topics and best practice. I am a member of NEDonBoard, Institute of Board Members.

And on the other side of that balance, I have been able to spend plenty of quality time with my family and crucially I have flexibility to give support to them when it is needed. I have studied and gained a qualification as an executive coach and have enjoyed supporting clients in exploring their challenges and ambitions.

I look forward to the next year of personal growth, playing my small part in organisational development and improvement, witnessing the strategic ambitions becoming a reality and seeing individuals and teams flourish in empowering cultures.

Written by Debbie Beaven, NED, Trustee, Executive Coach, Mentor and CFO

Related resources:

How to connect with impact to build the portfolio of roles to which you aspire

To find out about value proposition and positioning as a NED, please visit the NED Accelerator® Programmes course page.

Not yet a member? Don’t miss out on opportunities to expand your network and get a step closer to achieving your NED objectives, whether you are new to the NED role or an established non-executive director. Sign up today to NEDonBoard, Institute of Board Members.