We often get different variations of the same questions when we speak to individuals about becoming first time Non-Exec …
I’m not sure I have enough experience yet…?
Won’t it matter that I’ve never been on a board before?
Don’t I have to be from a certain background or look a certain way?
Why would an organisation want me?
Over the last 18 months we’ve placed over 20 first time Non-Execs.
These amazing individuals have a number of things in common but perhaps the most significant being that when I first approached them, most of them said a variation of one of the questions above. They had all thought about joining a board, but something had, so far, always held them back from going for it. We were able to have an open and honest conversation with them about why we thought they might be a good fit and assure them that if they focus on the things that really matter, they’d be in with as good a shot as anyone else.
We can never guarantee anyone we work with that they’ll definitely get the position they’ve applied for, but we can guarantee that we’ll do everything we can along the way to ensure that they put their best forward. So, what are the things that really matter?
There are three things that you need to focus on when pitching yourself to a board role. These are your capability, your ability to give the time and, if the role is unremunerated, your passion. Every non-exec role is searching for a skill set first and foremost – if they’re advertising for an individual who has a background in People Management but you’re currently in Analytics it’s not a good use of your time applying. Experience can’t always be measured by “years in the workplace” but what experience do you have that is able to demonstrate your ‘value add’.
Time commitment can be a major barrier, but most first-time board roles won’t be expecting the earth from you, especially if you have a day job but they will be expecting you to be able to hit the minimum time commitment, roughly 8-14 days per year (organisation dependent). You then need to be able to show your passion for the cause from the very beginning of your application – if the position is for a local theatre but you never go to the theatre, then it’s not the right role for you. Similarly, if the role is for a local NHS Trust, you’ll likely need to have a strong connection to the area by either living or working there, don’t waste your time applying if you don’t. Lived experience can be invaluable.
Not all organisations are able to look at first time Non-Execs every time they come to market, but a lot of our clients are totally open to it and many of them have a buddy/mentor system in place to ensure that new trustees are given the support they need. Sometimes you have to believe in your ability, be open to asking for advice and take the right shots...
Come along to our drop-in clinic tomorrow (1.30pm Wednesday 10th August) to hear us talk about this a little more with our guest Melanie Williams Browne, a trustee on the board of Family Action, Head of Schools Tutoring @ Pearson and an Early Career Coach.