How Do You View Your NED Career: Main Chapter or Epilogue?

4 Minutes

How you view your NED career is important

Do you see it as a ‘main chapter’ of your professional career or more of an ‘epilogue’ that rounds off a successful executive career?

I pose the question after recent conversations with several CEOs who are facing the question of when to make the switch to a plural career. Should they go for one more turn in an executive role or take the plunge into developing a non-executive portfolio? My experience has shown me that taking time to consider how you view your NED career can be particularly valuable in giving you clarity around your expectations and a strategic perspective of your NED career.

For some the transition point is obvious. For others, less so.

Embedded in the answer for you, will be how you want to invest the remainder of your career. Sometimes investing money can seem easier than deciding to how and where we invest ourselves and our time. But firstly let me share what I am seeing.

Changing Trends in NED Roles

Historically, the transition to NED has had more of an epilogue feel, where the achievements as an executive have been the ‘mountain top’ and the credibility and capabilities developed are leveraged for a series of highly related roles before full retirement ultimately beckons.

However, within the past ten years – and especially the last five – there has been a noticeable shift towards people developing a plural career as a ‘main chapter’ in their professional career. This trend is only set to accelerate.

Whilst not the only reasons, two very recent noticeable drivers are:

    the emergence of ambitious technology businesses which is giving rise to a need for younger, more digitally-savvy NEDs; and
    the overdue push for increased levels of diversity at board level which is driving much broader search parameters and more accessible opportunities

These trends have seen increasing numbers start their NED career earlier and approach it with the same levels of ambition and focus that they brought to their executive ‘chapter’.

Interestingly, I have also noticed various ‘main chapter’ NEDs develop and thrive to such an extent that their executive careers have now been fundamentally overshadowed by their NED achievements. Remarkably, with perspective, this latest chapter is proving the most interesting, fulfilling and compelling. Some are proving even better Chairs and NEDs that they were executives.

How Do You View Your NED Career?

There is of course no collective right or wrong answer. What works for one is entirely subjective. In fact I would actively encourage you to discount any cultural influence or pressure that is implying some objective vision of what ‘success’ or ‘good’ looks like.

However, be aware your perspective will affect the decisions you make.

It will impact the choices of roles you pursue, the degree to which you will seek to learn and develop in new areas, the types of companies or sectors you want to work in, and the level of risk – whether financial or reputational – that you are prepared to take.

So what about you? How does that question land with you? What kind of response does it generate?

If it helps you in some of the decisions you looking to make, then this short article will have been more than worth it.