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If you’re approaching retirement but not quite ready to quit working just yet, why not consider taking up a role on a company board as a Non-Executive Director?

Becoming a Non-Executive Director enables you to showcase your knowledge, skills and expertise amongst executive peers whilst also enjoying the benefits of an employment schedule on your own terms. If you’re passionate about new projects, becoming a critical friend is the ideal solution.

Non-Executive Directors are referred to as critical friends because of their importance to decision making in the boardroom. Together with your expertise, Non-Executive Directors are relied upon for objectivity, governance, management skills and strengthening the control systems of a company. 

Statistics reveal there has been a significant rise in non-executive appointments since 2007 – especially women. Lord Davies, said the widening pool of female Non-Executive Directors is to “balance the executive pipeline with equal attention and energy [or] the future will not be bright.” 

Working a few days a month and increasing your spending power once you leave your full-time role is an opportunity that could be too tempting to ignore. 

Why businesses often need a critical friend

The fast-paced changes of the modern business environment have prompted leading companies to invite non-executives into the boardroom to provide extra stability and broaden horizons. With the emergence of disruptive technologies and challenges such as Brexit on the horizon, board members are finding it more difficult to navigate modern-day issues. As a result, companies now look to Non-Executive Directors for a fresh perspective on the new challenges they face.

Even companies with good management teams in place typically have limited knowledge and resources in key areas. Non-Executive Directors provide companies with high-level expertise that can help senior leaders see the future whilst also flagging issues that full-time employees may struggle to spot or consider.

It is not only FTSE 500 companies that are looking to hire more Non-Executive Directors either. Startups and small businesses are also showing an interest in tapping into experts that can provide industry insights and fresh strategies on a part-time basis.

What boards look for in Non-Executive Directors

Executive Directors want Non-Executive Directors to provide independent and impartial views that will influence their decision making. You must be able to challenge board members, identify weaknesses in current systems and evaluate ideas with intelligent probing. Use your experiences at executive level to influence smarter business within the company you land your non-executive role with. 

Strong personality traits are required, but not necessarily big personalities. Established board members will not be impressed by bravado, arrogance and argumentative types. Diplomacy, brevity, clarity and objectivity are characteristics and qualities that seamlessly slot into boardrooms. Thoughtful communication is key. Non-Executive Directors that can navigate challenges and handle sensitive egos have more influence over existing board members.

It is also important to remember that challenging established executives requires one to build trusting relationships. When you challenge established board members, you must also have solutions that mitigate risks. It’s not always the information Non-Executive Directors provide that is important, but the way in which you frame questions.

Whilst the financial rewards of being a critical friend can be satisfying, Non-Executive Directors should show passion and ambition about a project. If you’re only interested in taking on a role as a Non-Executive Director for the money, your reputation and ego is more likely to be dented and the board will recognise your lack of enthusiasm.

Be certain about your motivation for wanting to serve as a critical friend. You will take more satisfaction from the role if it is something you truly want to do. And there is no shortage of possibilities waiting for the right candidates. 

Do you think you’ve got what it takes to become a Non-Executive Director? If so, get in touch now and we can help you land a dream role that will help fund your retirement and fuel your passion.