Home Featured “For Me, Becoming a NED was an Easy Decision”

“For Me, Becoming a NED was an Easy Decision”

by Keerat

Tracy Westall
NED (Non-Executive Director) – WM5G
Chair – Curium Solutions
NED (Non-Executive Director) – Department for Transport

 

For me, becoming a NED was an easy decision. After years working as an Executive I knew the challenges and was pretty sure I had something to offer as a non executive. Being a NED means bringing business experience, the ability to support, challenge, taking time to understand culture and strategy underpinned by specific sector expertise to help the senior team to deliver a successful organisation. What’s not to enjoy!

I have varied portfolio, working in very different settings, each with their own challenges, timescales and leadership styles but what is common is the appreciation for the support their NEDs bring. I firmly see my role about helping the organisation be the best that it can be.

To be most effective I know it’s about building trust and confidence supporting respective Leadership teams striving to deliver often against complex issues. As a Chair building that individual relationship with the CEO is paramount. Being remote as a Chair is not effective. Often it’s about listening. Having the answer is easy, however helping others finds theirs is more difficult but rewarding.

2020 has tested everyone and it has certainly been an interesting time to be a NED using every skills possible in the Boardroom to help make a difference in unprecedented times.

Any leader knows even under normal circumstances, it can be lonely. This can be even more acute when leading in adversity and challenge and 2020’s would surely have challenged even the most experienced leaders. Being Chair is about leading the board and ensuring it’s as effective as possible. For me, as a NED it’s about making a beneficial contribution; for me as a Chair it’s about facilitating NED contribution in the best way to benefit the business. Bringing out the very best from all Board members to benefit the business during challenging times can make all the difference and is fundamental to being a good Chair.

Board behaviours have pivoted too. Meetings are now often virtual so reading the room is harder and an impromptu conversation impossible. The chat bar is not quite the same! No doubt NEDs have had to adapt as well. Implementing technology to make sure the board and wider business functions brought tactical operations to the fore as a strategic imperative.

Many have wrestled with furlough, closing and reopening offices, staff safety, mental health and well being making swift decisions on things that would have normally been debated as a part of a wider business strategy. At times like this, having NEDs to provide some challenge, different perspective and expertise add value to those leading in times of adversity.

The measure of success and Board effectiveness remain constant; business growth – turnover, profit, EBITDA, securing investment, securing a sale are the obvious and important KPI’s against which a NED measure their contribution. In addition to these, I think there are other important ones; Organisational culture are we living our mission and values? Are we a diverse organisation? Do we have a connected workforce? Are we making a wider social impact? These are strategically important things for any organisation and alongside the obvious financial indicators, are things a NED can impact.

Being a NED is also about us learning and challenging even our most established thinking. Who would have thought Zoom or TEAMS could be a suitable mechanism for Board Away Days!. It seems it can be and as a Chair, it has been a bit easier to keep board meetings focused and on time so not all downside!

 

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