A number of our members have expressed an interest in Non-Executive Director roles as part of their longer-term career development, particularly as the composition of boards is changing over time to become more diverse across many dimensions including gender, background, and age.
In support of these members’ ambitions, this post shares some questions individuals can ask before considering a non-executive directorship.
Boards of organisations (companies and other) consist of two main types of directors. The first is those who work for the organisation on a day-to-day basis, making decisions, leading the organisation, and implementing the organisation’s strategy. They are executive directors, and we’ve previously written about lessons learnt from shadowing executives. Executive assistant / business manager roles are a great way for ambitious talent to gain exposure to executive decision-making at an earlier stage in their careers.
As the pace of change increases, we find ourselves, more and more, in unfamiliar situations. Different forces can push us into uncharted waters at different times in our lives. Yet at Protagion we urge our members to practise doing things they’ve never done in order to feel at home with the unknown. For us, elements of this are staying curious, consciously pushing ourselves, and embracing new experiences.
In the context of this belief, the focus of this post is on how to learn at the same time as demonstrating expertise. The risk of feeling insecure is high in new situations, but we must learn to embrace this feeling in order to keep learning and growing. Also, as we become more senior, we are less likely to have breathing space to learn and become experts before needing to demonstrate our understanding. The speed at which things evolve means that time out to build expertise is more of a luxury than a reality. Often too, learning is a result of interaction with others, and in order to be accepted into the group, we need to demonstrate some credibility first.
In previous posts, we found that successful people often have some consulting experience in their careers (e.g. Routes to the Top – Investment Management). So, we looked at what we could learn from management consultants, who find themselves in new situations regularly. At a high-level, the mindset of a consultant can be described as a problem-solving one, where they gather data about the specific problem, formulate solutions, test these with their clients, and then repeat the cycle many times to refine their proposals. This cyclical approach means that consultants learn a lot about their industry and the players within the industry within a short period of time.
But, this post is not only relevant to consultants. Others who need to learn and deliver at the same time include:
- contractors (IT, programme management, actuarial, marketing etc)
- existing team members allocated to a project
- analysts and professional advisors
- freelancers and
- others trying to learn something new on-the-job.
Like consultants, these types of workers have to adapt to a different setting with each new project or client and rise to dynamic challenges from the start. They also have to prepare carefully, signal their competence, understand the environment they’re in, and cultivate acceptance from others.
Cognizant’s Centre for the Future of Work has written two reports about jobs they anticipate will emerge over the next decade. To do so, they studied the major macroeconomic, political, demographic, societal, cultural, business and technology trends. These trends include: growing populations, aging populations, populism, environmentalism, migration, automation, arbitrage, quantum physics, AI, biotechnology, space exploration, cybersecurity, and virtual reality.
However work changes in future, our foundational belief is that our human imagination and ingenuity will be the source of human work ad infinitum”
They feel that these jobs (and others) will begin to replace work that is being automated away. Some are already observable in the marketplace, but will expand further over time.
Two videos (roughly 4 and 6 minutes long respectively) which give examples of the new jobs Cognizant see: