IPSE needs a brilliant board – and you should think (before it’s too late) about joining it

Depending on your age, you might recall any number of stereotypes on film and TV about the life of a non-executive director (NED) – boardroom excesses, the old boys’ network, and a lack of accountability. 

Some of the time, some of it was even true.

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Fast-forward to today’s very different world. All organisations, from the biggest FTSE-100 corporation to the smallest non-profit, now operate in an environment characterised by tighter regulation, closer scrutiny and increased expectation on the part of shareholders and other stakeholders.

In the absence of effective leadership and oversight by the board, brands can disappear, share prices collapse and boards face justifiably harsh public criticism. And company law applies to the directors of a membership body like IPSE as much as it does to the boards of big PLCs.  

Why do I mention all this? It’s not to scare you off, but to highlight that, as we look for candidates to stand for election as NEDS on the IPSE board, it is worth thinking very carefully about what the job is all about. 

Let me explore three aspects of this.

Firstly, NEDs can and do make a difference. It’s not all doom and gloom. Having good directors can lead to ambitious ideas and amazing results. IPSE is a great example of this: look at our commercial growth, product and service diversification and increased influence. The board of any company would be rightly pleased with those outcomes and directors of successful companies should be proud of their contribution.

Secondly, however, an effective board understands and respects the difference between its role and that of the executive. It is the board’s job to set the strategy and to oversee the business’s performance against annual plans, but it is emphatically not the NEDs’ role to replace the executive team or do their work for them. You might bring some particular expertise to the board – see here for some of this year’s priorities – but the board has collective responsibility for all aspects of the business. Most of us are specialists of one kind or another: becoming a NED is a great opportunity to learn about how it all fits together.

Thirdly, NEDs are accountable in law, as well as (in IPSE’s case) to members, for the proper governance, conduct and operation of the company. The boardroom isn’t a soapbox for directors to vent their opinions and prejudices. Egos need to be left outside the door: no-one has a monopoly on wisdom. Advice needs to be listened to and the views of others aired and respected. Issues affecting the company need to be thoroughly considered, options evaluated and decisions taken – including the unpopular ones – for the right reasons. An effective board thinks carefully and works collectively. Only then can effective leadership be assured.

Board directors can and do make a difference. It’s not all doom and gloom. Having good directors can lead to ambitious ideas and amazing results. IPSE is a great example of this.

One final thought. None of this is meant to suggest that you have to be an experienced director to be a good candidate for the IPSE board. Serving as a director is one of the important ways in which IPSE members can contribute to the strategic leadership of the organisation and thus the many thousands of people it supports and represents. This may be an opportunity for some to gain perhaps their first non-executive responsibility. Look at the experience and knowledge you have and see how that matches against the requirement. You may not even have gained these skills in the workplace – think sports clubs, school governors, or charities. 

Think too about how you want to make a difference. Are you willing to commit the time and effort it sometimes takes to be an effective director? Are you prepared to listen to others’ views and to challenge your own? Are you good at working with others to find the right answer – and will you take collective ownership and responsibility for decisions?

Being on the IPSE board isn’t for everyone – and not everyone who wants to play their part should do so as a NED. 

But, if you’ve thought (carefully) about what we’re looking for and believe you can do it, please get in touch before it’s too late. It’s people like you we’re looking for.

IPSE is currently looking for four new Directors. Nominations close Wednesday 26 September 2018 at 5pm. Click here for further information

Meet the author

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Robin Murray Brown

Robin Murray Brown has been the independent chair of IPSE’s Nominations Committee since 2015. He works as an executive search consultant and strategic adviser to boards in the membership and professional services sectors. 

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