What to be Aware of When Thinking to Become a Non-Executive Director – Expert Interview: Joanna Baldwin

We asked Joanna Baldwin, as an experienced NED, what she looks for when thinking to join a new board, her thoughts on preparing for a role and a possible misconception new NEDs can have.

Joanna is a Non-Executive Director and Member of the Strategy Committee for Aviva France, and a Trustee and Chair of Marketing & Fundraising for Fight for Sight, the UK’s leading eye research charity. She was Senior Vice President and head of Global Business Development for Publicis Worldwide, founded her own specialist digital consultancy and was International Chief Operating Officer of Bono’s (PRODUCT)RED , helping meet one of the Millennium Development Goals – halting the progress of HIV/AIDS by 2015.

1) Broadly speaking, what do you look for when you are thinking to join a new board in a NED or Trustee capacity?

When studying the role, will it be dynamic and ambitious? Will it be complementary to my other positions? Can I make a contribution that will make a difference to that organisation’s performance? When interviewing, does the personal chemistry work?

2) How complex are boards of large, successful organisations? What should non-execs be particularly aware of when preparing for a role within a large, complex organisation?

There is no simple, single answer. It is apparent when a Board has adequately covered the expertise bases required for its business sector, and when there are gaps. Beware when you see too many variations of the same type of person and experience, it is evident the Board is not really looking for challenge!

It is essential to prepare well, especially in the disciplines which are less familiar. You neither can nor are expected to become an expert outside your own experience but to be ignorant of substantive areas of a complex business is not acceptable. The Board is looking for your general counsel, as well as your specific talents.

3) What misconceptions can new NEDs and board members sometimes have? What advice do you have for them?

If making a recent transition from an executive to a non-executive position, or especially whilst holding an executive position as well as undertaking a new non-exec position, it is important to be clear about the differing expectations of the two types of role. A non-executive is there to give the executive team support and to provide constructive challenge but is not there to take decisions about how to run the business.

For more about Joanna, please visit: https://www.linkedin.com/in/baldwinjoanna

If you are a non-executive director, let us know what misconceptions you think new NEDs can come across in a role, at liv.noble@nedonboard.com

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