Life in the Hot Seat

The Future for Non-Executive Directors; key issues from the Channel Islands NEDS Forum

Over 70 directors and leaders from across the Channel Islands gathered this week for the BL-Global NEDs Forum.

I was invited to participate in a panel session on the ‘NED of the future’ alongside Chris Clark, CEO, Prosperity 24.7; Julie Coward, Client Services Director, First Names Group and Norson Harris, Director, ZEDRA Trust Company (Jersey).

It was a stimulating day with three key themes emerging from the sessions.

Diversity

Ensuring diversity of perspective is crucial for an effective board. Group thinking will curtail creativity and potentially magnify the impact of a crisis. The NED role, in particular, is to bring an outside, objective perspective; to shine a light on the critical issues and reveal any ‘elephants in the room'.

The NED Forum considered diversity from a variety of angles: gender, experience and stakeholder role. There appeared to be a desire to develop young people into board roles, the work of Board Apprentice is noteworthy, and there were many conversations around the idea of board-shadowing or even a shadow board, although not in the illegal sense!

My view is that an effective board will include younger people in an appointed board position if they possess the critical leadership skills. From Leaders’ perspective, that includes passion, commitment, awareness, and agility. The best boards are comprised of wise, experienced and ‘battle-worn’ directors as well as younger, ‘savvy’ individuals. This brings a diverse perspective whilst providing for succession and for the business to flourish in the long term.

Technology Awareness

High-profile data and technology-related problems have resulted in a recognition of the need for boards to be more intentional about considering technology-related opportunity and risk.

Whether a disruptive opportunity or threat or a cyber-attack risk, the modern world demands a digital focus. Yet many boards remain lightweight in this area. For some, a technology specialist director would provide the solution. For others, receiving good advice is sufficient.

I think there is also a different, or additional, point to consider: that the board needs to have a desire to grow, change and travel. Success requires constant movement - at varying paces. Phenomenal performance is not achieved by standing still or arriving at a given destination. Goals should constantly be stretched. As has always been the case in history, technological improvements accelerate the pace of change. But boards that don’t really want to change will never embrace technology as an opportunity. Settling for ‘good enough’ is not good enough.

Leadership Quality

I was delighted that essential ‘human factor’ skill was in focus during the day, right from the opening panel session. Leadership requires essential skills as much, if not more than technical skills. Establishing and promoting (including modeling) behaviors and attitudes that create the environment and culture that allows the business to flourish is core to board-level responsibility.

Being able to challenge well, with wisdom, integrity, and humility is on the basis of long-term success. Being highly self-aware, team-aware, market-aware and customer-aware is very important for NEDs. This includes an awareness of when to remove yourself from a certain role and move on. 

The session on handling a crisis further underscored the emphasis on emotionally intelligent leadership. Defensive denial nearly always magnifies a problem whereas leaders who respond with humility, objectivity, and empathy solve issues far more effectively.

Leaders

Enhancing emotional intelligence and harnessing human factors is what we do in partnership with our clients, all with the aim of advancing and achieving phenomenal performance. We work with board directors, NEDs, C-suite executives and future leaders.