Being a Non-Executive Director in and after Covid-19

Unquestionably the Covid-19 pandemic has brought exceptional challenges for businesses, Public Sector and Not-for-Profits alike and inevitably these challenges have been reflected in the boardroom. Many businesses, for example, have needed to ‘pivot’ in order to simply survive – with board strategy changing to reflect circumstance and the question of culture being arguably more important than ever as the shift to ‘homeworking’ has accelerated beyond anyone’s imagination.

Although the key attributes we look for in a successful Non-Executive largely remain the same (see figure 1 below), new areas of focus are likely to be digital strategy and turnaround experience. Data and cyber security continue to be increasingly important and NEDs should be comfortable seeking external guidance and reassurance that strategy is fit for purpose. Additionally, I would be inclined to add resilience to the list given the strain that some have felt during these unprecedented times.

With the move to ‘virtual boards’ and the advent of days filled with Zoom meetings we should also consider how introverts and extroverts might react and to consider this in conjunction with the accessibility of the Chair and other Directors outside the formal sessions. It is important that everyone continues to contribute.

Figure 1 – These key attributes for NEDs will likely remain as relevant as ever:

  • Commercially astute
  • Significant experience and demonstrable career success
  • Independence – but don’t be aloof! Be interested & passionate
  • Readiness to challenge yet not cross the executive line
  • Financial acumen
  • Emotional intelligence – partly as you’ll need to influence not direct and to read people
  • Gravitas & Credibility
  • Strength of personality and charisma
  • Integrity, Authenticity & Courage – you might need to hold the Board to account
  • Ability to engage (with all stakeholders)

The order of things could be about to change!

As strategy adapts to the ‘new norm’, boards will likely need some fresh perspective and slightly different skillsets; many long-term portfolio NEDs sitting on multiple boards will have been stretched by increased activity during the pandemic and might choose to ‘right-size’ by stepping down from some or all of these. Furthermore, boards should be reviewing and evaluating their performance during this period – how effectively have they worked together? Is the composition right?

It has been suggested that the churn of NEDs post-pandemic could be as much as 25% so certainly opportunities for those with less NED experience should be heightened over the coming quarters.

Seize the opportunity…

With this much potential opportunity to build your portfolio, we have scheduled a two-part webinar series hosted by Daryl Stickland, Head of Non-Executive Practice at Norrie Johnston Recruitment, in conjunction with award-winning career expert Victoria McLean, Founder and CEO of City CV. We look forward to welcoming Victoria who will guide and inform on all aspects of your Non-Executive portfolio career development. Starting with Webinar 1: The Perfect Non-Executive CV on Tuesday 20th October 2020 between 12:30 – 13:30.

To register your interest:

On Tuesday 3rd November, between 12.30 – 13.30, Webinar 2 will expand on this with how to Harness the power of LinkedIn with a winning profile – a critical consideration for those who are serious about adding NED roles.

At Norrie Johnston Recruitment (NJR), we know that appointing a quality Non-Executive Director (NED) or Chairman is one of the most valuable decisions a business can make – with phenomenal ROI potential! But engaging the right people is key: their expertise, insight and networks are invaluable to leaders of today and tomorrow.

If you are considering hiring a NED or Chair for your business or would like to find out more about becoming a NED, please contact Daryl Stickland, Head of NJR’s Non-Executive Practice at: or telephone +44(0)7801 354761.