Article on the
changing non-executive board positions in the MCA Insight magazine written by
PSD's Flemming Hansen.
The profile of executives is
changing according to PSD Group's Flemming Hansen. Here he
explains how this affects the make-up of non-executive positions in the
powerhouses of businesses across the country and how anyone wanting such a post
can make the most of the opportunities that await.
here to open a PDF of the article.
here to open the article in the online magazine (Subscription
During the past few years we have seen a number of
'out-of-sector' appointments to key board positions, eg, Stephen Murphy at
Byron, Allan Leighton at Wagamama and Debbie Hewitt at TRG, often replacing
As the hospitality and leisure industry changes and
prepares for challenges ahead, the profile of executives is changing. Many
conventional hospitality business are becoming multichannel retailers thus
changing the nature of the executive role.
This, in turn, is changing
the profile of the non-executive roles. So what do the next generation of
non-executives need to do to set them-selves up for a successful plural career
given this trend?
To develop a strong platform for a plural career, executives from within the
industry must ensure they have the breadth required to add value to future
strategic challenges. They must prioritise and embrace innovation in
particular. Who would have envisaged that unmanned gyms, pod hotels,
self-service casual-dining restaurants and Michelin-starred pubs would be the
trends of today? Business leaders must advance their service models and brands,
embracing the next generation of customers and trends as well as creating
efficient outlets to cope with challenges such as rising rents and
Furthermore, they must ensure digital channels perform and
add value because digital engagement is an important part of the customer
experience. The customer journey, with the impact of social media, starts
before the customer arrives on site today, particularly for a new
Success on the plural route
With such challenges, the 'customer experience director' function is
emerging, following the trend of multichannel media companies, linking
marketing, service, development and trading into one board role. It is
appointments such as PizzaExpress's customer director from Mastercard that will
present a challenge for executives from within the sectors vying for the same
non-executive post in the future.
Successful executives in the industry,
who master the art of leading traditional disciplines such as finance and
operations as well as embracing innovation, will have a much stronger
opportunity to go down the plural route. However, to secure such a role in an
increasingly competitive market place, it is recommended to plan for this
transition as early as possible because it is unlikely to occur without
preparation or thought.
Important to any executive wanting to advance
their career is to understand their motivations. Are the motivations: work-life
balance, more control of time, the opportunity to 'give something back',
working with new sectors or simply career advancement? In addition to this,
they will need to be sure to consider their own personal financial position as
the remuneration will be less or even pro bono.
Consider the skills gap
and try to understand any personal development needs. Discuss these with
mentors and other nonexecutives to get their opinion on areas to strengthen
within the needed skill set. Once areas for development are identified, it is
important to focus on these and set out to improve them. This can be achieved
through NED (non-executive director) courses, mentoring and coaching, and will
be complemented by the increasing stretch of the executive role given the
challenges mentioned earlier.
Through such dialogue, the strengths of
any executive will also be identified. Being clear on how these strengths can
add value to a board is key because the first appointment is likely to be
closely linked with the core experience of the executive career. There are many
ways to progress with nonexecutive roles and understanding where one wants to
position a plural career will help to focus where one needs to develop.
Be discerning over offers
They say getting the first role can be the most
difficult. That may well be the case. However, do not underestimate the
importance of choosing the right role, not necessarily the first role on offer.
Do not be afraid to decline an opportunity, be as selective with non-executive
roles as with roles in the executive career and do ensure every role adds value
to the long-term plan. Keep the end goal in mind.
It is important to do
due diligence, not just corporate governance and compliance, but also regarding
culture. Corporate governance and compliance are the primary responsibilities
of the board and will reflect directly on your reputation when considered for
other roles. As with any other role, it is important to be culturally suited to
the business, be it a PLC, private equity backed or privately owned
Be open minded, while in an executive role it may be sensible
to consider the third sector and working with organisations with a social
purpose or significant personal interest. This will also enable any executive
to hone influencing skills and use their emotional intelligence to influence
not-forprofit executives whose core objectives will be different to most
objectives in industry. Doing so will be very different to leading commercial
executive teams but the learning can be pivotal to the success in a
The transition to a plural career is a
gradual process, be patient and realistic about the time it will take to adapt.
Effectiveness in the role is of high importance. The nonexecutive role will be
working with a more complex framework of peers, and potentially new sectors. Do
not underestimate the amount of learning such a role will require, as well as
the emotional energy needed. The role may feel out of your comfort zone
initially, but take the time to settle in, observe and learn. Understanding
board dynamics and the business before imparting advice or looking to influence
will prove very valuable in the long term.
Many experienced plural directors comment that a non-executive director will
not be as effective in the role, if they hold more than one non-executive post
at first, while also in a demanding executive role.
Finally, reach out
to the network, engage with head hunters, mentors and other nonexecutives who
are able to share knowledge and experience as well as provide valuable insight
and advice along the way.
As traditional hospitality and leisure
businesses evolve at pace, so must the executives who lead them. This, combined
with preparation and planning for the latter stages of a career will ensure the
executives of today are better suited to the demands of the non-executive of