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WOB Director Lunch Insights: Getting Started with your NED Career

by My Career

Women on Boards (WOB) is an independent and action-oriented organisation founded in 2006 by Claire Braund and Ruth Medd, with a proud history of supporting women to leverage their professional skills and experience into leadership and non-executive-director roles. WOB has been working for 18 years to address gender inequity in the boardroom and is a recognised leader in promoting and supporting women to achieve decision making roles.

At a recent Women on Boards Clayton Utz partnered lunch, we had the opportunity to hear from Kelly Humphreys, a serving Non Executive Director (NED) and Chair, about her journey to the boardroom, and comments more generally on the role and workload for directors.

Getting Started with your NED Career

There were so many insights shared by Kelly about her original decision to transition from an Executive career to a NED career, right through to what she’s learnt about building relationships with board Chairs and fellow board members and how to work effectively with an organisation’s management team. I particularly liked Kelly’s belief that a key part of her role as a NED is to help the management team shine and be brilliant.

Kelly secured her first board role via her professional network. The WOB vacancy board (available to members) is also a great way to assess the different board opportunities available.

Kelly encouraged us all to begin by documenting your plan. Her plan was based on three key areas of focus:

  1. Define what success looks like.
  2. Consider how I would like to contribute to a board.
  3. Consider how I will network.

This will look different for each individual and be influenced by the impact you’ve had in the organisations you’ve led the strengths you’re able to leverage and your appetite for networking. Some people may love networking, many people don’t, however it’s essential!

Analyse and document how your skills transfer in a NED environment

As you begin to think about which of your skills translate into the board world, Kelly suggested a very practical method for reviewing and articulating your achievements in your executive career. Consider as many scenarios as you can where you can describe the situation, the action you took and the result you achieved.

  1. Situation
  2. Action
  3. Result

When talking to an organisation about the relevant skills you have for their board, you can then choose two or three of the most relevant scenarios you’ve documented in your plan. An example may be that you’ve led strategic projects, demonstrating you are commercially astute and can navigate regulatory environments. Your particular approach to managing relationships and resolving bumps in the road in this situation gives the board a sense of how you can guide the organisation’s management team through their regulatory environment.

For Kelly, the development of these scenarios when she first began planning her transition to a NED career, resulted in four pages of analysis and around twenty possible examples to choose from.

This is a key step in the transition from describing yourself for an executive role versus a board role. You also need to be able to do this in your CV, and then update your LinkedIn profile to reflect this. WOB provides members with specific resources to assist with this.

Documenting these scenarios and clarifying the situation, action and result, informs how you talk about yourself in interview and networking situations. It’s essential you can share the two or three most relevant scenarios to help describe how your skills are suited to a particular board’s requirements. You also need to develop a two minute pitch you can share in a lift when you bump into a key contact or a ten minute blurb in a more formal setting.

Networking approach

My niece was beside me at this event, as we listened to Kelly’s insights, and enjoyed the lunch provided by Clayton Utz in their Collins Street office. She’s recently become a lawyer and has joined Women on Boards to learn more about how to make an impact, as her career progresses. It’s very precious to share events like this with Abbie. WOB events provide professional development in an environment where women are supported, guided and inspired by NEDs who share their insights at Director lunches.

One of the reasons I enjoy the WOB community is the friendly and insightful members. Whether you are a non member, attending your first event, or a new member getting to know the other members, everyone is made to feel welcome. I share this with you because Kelly’s first suggestion for networking was to start networking now, even if you are a few years away from taking your next steps in your board career.

Kelly set herself the goal of two networking meetings a week. At the end of each meeting she would ask if there was anyone in their network who’d be prepared to have a conversation with her. Most people, when asked are happy to help.. She prioritised networking, first with the people she knew, followed by people who knew people she knew and the people who would be useful to know, but she didn’t already know.

If two networking meetings per week feels like too much for you right now, that’s okay. The point is to set yourself a networking goal that fits into what you can manage. It’s about getting you and your brand out there. The goal with networking is to keep your network informed and to expand your network. This ensures that as many relevant people as possible know you, and will hopefully also vouch for you when you’re being considered for board roles. You will reap the benefits of networking when you go for job interviews.

Kelly shared many other insights with us. I’ve chosen not to share them all with you because there is an intimacy about these lunches. An understanding that we are together in a room, connecting with each other and sharing our stories to help others. It’s also my way of encouraging you to investigate Women on Boards and come along to a Director lunch. Your future self will thank you.

Next Steps         

As Kelly shared her insights Abbie checked a few times, “Did you get that?” I was taking notes in a small green moleskine notebook. There was so much goodness to be processed, as we contemplated what these insights meant for our desire to make a difference and progress our careers.

Abbie and I exchanged text messages later that day.

Aunty Karen: I love sharing experiences like this with you. #justsayin

Abbie: Me too! Thanks for inviting me, such good insights. Have some ideas I’d like to discuss with you soon. Would love to go back over the points you wrote down over coffee sometime and talk about which are most relevant to us and make a plan and implement them. I know she said it’s not good to have family keeping you accountable but I think it has more or less worked for us in the past!

Aunty Karen: Great idea [emoticon: smiley face with reading glasses]

Karen Hollenbach, LinkedIn Expert Consultant, Educator & Mentor

Karen Hollenbach, LinkedIn Expert Consultant, Educator & Mentor

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