The 7 Deadly Sins of nascent NEDs
§1: Absent or unclear personal purpose and strategy
Boards need to know that their new NEDs are fully committed to being NEDs and are not merely frustrated CEOs. The hiring CEOs and their boards fear that some NED applicants are settling, very reluctantly, for the next best thing to being a CEO. For them, an unsettled NED is a nightmare waiting to happen and far too close for comfort at that. So, it’s important that the market feels that you are ready, mentally, to be a NED and that you are ready to move on and help CEOs and boards benefit from your experiences and learn from your mistakes, not breath down their necks. You will have reviewed your life with more than a modicum of emotional intelligence and with the wisdom you have developed over years. You will have reviewed your old purpose and thoughtfully decided on a new one. Purpose is not a proper noun with one meaning as in the cliché: “purpose driven”, as if, somehow, it were a unique hijacked load carried by a surreal lorry driver. Purpose is a humble ordinary noun. It can be whatever you want it to be. You will come up with a meaningful purpose for your NED portfolio. Then you will communicate it. You will be chilled and avuncular, not grumpy and scary.
You also need a strategy to achieve your portfolio purpose because, whether you like it or not, you are now a small NED professional services business selling your services for cash and, mainly, soft benefits. All the art and science of business can, and must, be applied to you. Strategy is about “how” you achieve your new purpose. Would-be NEDs struggle if they forget the very business principles that drove their success in the first place. One of these drivers, invariably, was their natural instinct in setting the right strategy for their businesses. Now, more than ever, you need to dust down these skills. Your new strategy for your new purpose will of course differ from other NEDs. Indeed you will have a competitive advantage over them if you have done this thinking. But without out a strategy it’s unlikely that you will succeed in building your best portfolio. Sure, you may secure some roles. But you won’t build the best and most fulfilling portfolio you deserve which, with a small change in behaviour and the right strategy, you could have built.
My next workshop is on Thursday 25th. February at the IOD, London: