In preparation for a series of interviews with Non-Executive Directors (including independent ones i.e. iNEDs) for my profession’s magazine, I’ve been doing research around the topic, and came across a helpful report by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in South Africa. The report is based on an online survey by the IoD on the recruitment, selection and appointment process for NEDs. It also references a spread of international reports for those interested in wider reading, and concludes with an overview of advice for potential NEDs and advice for nomination committees themselves.
In this article, I focus on its advice for individuals rather than the companies. Some of the advice is specific to NED roles (such as treating the interview as a discussion among potential peers), while some is relevant to general job applications as well (such as tailoring your application to the role and its requirements). In future months, we’ll share with our readers aspects of my interviews with individual NEDs, their career journeys and their tips for others considering becoming NEDs too, after publication in the professional magazine.
Read more to explore the reasons companies search for new NEDs and where they look, the attributes required of NED candidates, and the IoD’s advice on preparing your application, preparing for the interviews, considering an offer, and adding value once on board.
Sumit Ramani is an independent consultant with a strong focus on InsurTechs and non-traditional areas. Based in India, he has actively stepped out from his comfort zone from childhood, through graduating as an engineer and later switching professions and qualifying as an actuary, to starting on his own as an actuarial consultant as well as recently launching another venture that aims at helping customers identify their insurance needs. In his personal journey, Sumit shares the four key ingredients that have worked for him so far:
“I realised at a very young age that I have a thing for numbers and puzzles. I can vividly remember the morning walk when I was 6 and my dad, who is a medical doctor, introduced me to the concept of the time value of money. Since the earliest moments I can recall, he has been pushing the envelope. Hence, I believe that moving out of one’s comfort zone is possibly something that I have inherited. It also happens to one of the key ingredients of my success.
The second ingredient is taking charge of one’s life (and of course career!), which I first learnt the hard way during my formative years. Up until age 8, I was everything but meticulous. Every day after school, I would throw down my school bag and go out to play with my friends without even changing from my school uniform. Doing homework was out of the question and hence the mornings were the most painful part of my day. I would beg my mother to do my homework and she would agree after a lot of persuasion and my false promises to do better next time. But one particular day, she chose to turn down my request... Naturally, I was reprimanded at school. However, since then I have been taking care of my own work and have never blamed anyone else for anything that was my responsibility!
Perseverance and Personal Branding are the remaining two ingredients that have been helpful in my career. Let me talk about these and the first two ingredients as I share my life journey.
Some of our members are finding themselves with more time than usual on their hands: extra time not spent commuting as we’re working from home, and less in-person socialising as we isolate ourselves in our free time too, all to slow the global spread of the viral contagion. A positive perspective is that it’s forcing us to take downtime, to step away from the hustle and bustle, and reflect on whether perpetual busyness really is good for us and our businesses…
Some are investing their extra capacity in personal development, and building new skills. Examples include learning a new human language or programming language, reading business books* or tackling new online courses in meditation, cooking, statistics... Reinvesting in themselves is however not possible for everyone at this time, perhaps because of increased family care responsibilities or stretched finances. We also need to bear in mind that doing less may lead to achieving more - Tim Maurer argues that busyness leads to us being less productive, and says that “many are finding enjoyment in more productive work at a less busy pace”.
This post is inspired by by a recent LinkedIn article by Frances Mensah Williams called The Joy and Pain of Busy-ness. Frances is immensely qualified with respect to busyness, as evidenced by her varied portfolio career, including her concurrent roles as:
I’ll admit that at times I relish the pressure of racing through the to-do list, ticking off task after task and writing up a new one for the next day. I know I’m not the only one who has experienced feeling so deep in the flow of what I’m doing, that I carry on for hours without taking a break...”
Frances warns against being busy at all times, as this can impact our work/life balance, our relationships and even our health. The first step, she argues, is admitting and owning the problem. However, she writes: “There is a big difference between knowing something intellectually and embracing it fully. I’m just as guilty as many people of thinking that a bit of hard work never hurt anyone. And yet, it does. Burnout isn’t a myth, and if we don’t control our hyper-busy selves, it doesn’t take long to lose the joy you once found from whatever it is you’re busy doing.”
She quotes Kelly Feehan of the UK’s Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association, the charity supporting the wellbeing of past and present chartered accountants and their families: “People have the tendency to believe that to achieve personal success and happiness they need to be busy at all times – often at the expense of their [physical and mental] health and relationships.”
While we at Protagion are mostly fans of keeping busy (as opposed to being lazy!), there is a limit to how much we can accomplish if we push ourselves too far. It’s about being in the sweetspot of motivated, engaged and productive, rather than dispassionately listless at one extreme, or crazily overextended at the other. Another key aspect for us is thinking about work not in terms of hours spent, but rather in terms of value delivered i.e. an outcome-focus. To build a diversified income stream (and a successful portfolio career) and see yourself as a business, it’s important to have at least some sources of earnings which aren’t linked to selling your time… Examples include rental income, investment income and royalty income.
In fact, if you do find yourself incredibly busy, we’d suggest pausing to question whether the effort of ‘getting your hustle on’ is contributing towards you building a sustainable income for the future. Is your work building ‘assets’ (such a business) that can generate ongoing revenue for you?
Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer, as reported by Tim Maurer for Forbes, feels that we should take the time to enjoy the fruits of our labour too. Taking a “moment of closure to catch [our] breath and regroup” helps us to mark the occasion, “get perspective and reconnect with [our] purpose”.
Working intelligently is not about being busy, it's about being productive.”
And, if you need a tune to lift your spirits while hustling, remember the 1975 disco hit by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony.
Stay well, be productive and enjoy what drives you in your work”
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