There are a number of themes that run through my mentoring work but one of the most common is “How do I get a Non Executive Director (NED) role”?

Senior leaders have two reasons for wanting to be an NED:

1. To get another viewpoint on board governance and to understand what NED’s need from them in their executive role

2.  To start to position themselves for a plural career


Having had a plural career since 2002 I thought I would try to distill what I have learnt.

1. Decide what types of company you are aiming for.  FTSE 100 or 250, listed or unlisted? Equity or venture funded? The company needs to be one where you are comfortable and ideally in an area of industry where you have expertise. Think what level of risk you are comfortable with.

2. Find your niche. How do you become the person that people want to have on their boards? If you are an accountant then life is simpler, every board needs an accountant to chair the audit committee. But even if you are an accountant then the points below apply. Everyone else needs to have something they bring that is going to be important for the future of the company. The fact that you have been an HR Director or a great CIO probably will not get you an NED role. You need to bring something more.

3. Look at what your talents really are and how they may be relevant to the companies you are going to target. Some experience that boards look for:

– Change management

– M&A and integration experience

Technology (not of the IT sort but of the disruptive, world changing kind)

– Globalisation – the world is changing very fast and experience in managing that change is invaluable

– Business risk – again, not of the “what do we do when building A burns down” but more of “how do we manage if our market in China disappears”

4. If you have this experience then you need to promote this to potential recruiters.

5. Understand what is changing in the world, how are technology and globalization likely to change the businesses you are targeting.

6. Promote yourself. People want board members who have status in the world so manage your brand. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Think about being active on social media. Network in the sorts of areas that are relevant to the boards you want to join.

7. Create a stakeholder map for your industry – who are the influencers, who chairs the sorts of companies that you might be interested in? Network as much as you can but network with a purpose.

8. Get to know the head-hunters in your target area and spend time cultivating them. Keep them up to date with the changes in your career.

I can’t promise that any of this will get you the NED role of your dreams but it will certainly put you in a great position when the right one comes along.