Non-executive directors as mentors for the board

03 August 2023

The non-executive director as a mentor is a familiar concept, but how seriously is it taken by boards?

One of our recent NED Network events focused on exactly this issue. We were joined by Alexandra Hatchman, a seasoned senior executive who acts in several non-executive director roles; and Dr Vikas Shah MBE who started his own business at 14 and is now CEO of a family business in the Northwest. He is a non-executive director at a number of organisations, including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The role of a NED

The role of the NED is to act as a sounding board, and offer advice and guidance, but there is a difference between that and mentoring someone individually on their personal development. NEDs are there to guide, advise and help shape the business, independently.

What skills do NEDs need to perform their roles effectively?

  • Be supportive – NEDs need to care about the people they are guiding, and the businesses they are influencing.
  • Demonstrate commitment – this is a formal role and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly.
  • An expert in their field – be clear and confident in the value they can offer to the board
  • Practice independent thinking – be able to challenge the status quo when needed
  • Leadership skills – be confident and competent to lead in board committees if called upon to do so
  • Be flexible – recognise that the needs and demands of boards and team leadership have evolved in recent years
  • Be proactive – stay ahead of trends and developments in the market in order to know what questions to ask and what challenge will be most effective.

These are just some of the points the panel discussed during our March event. You can listen to the full conversation here.