I’m a coach – get me in here!

May 15, 2015

There is a place for coaches and mentors in the boardroom but is it as a non-executive director?

Empty Conference RoomToday I saw an advert for a non-executive director which included in its person specification the requirement that the candidate should be able to coach, mentor and develop the Executive Directors. Given that there is a significant overlap between the skill-sets for coaches, mentors and NEDs it is probably not asking too much of a NED that they are able to coach and mentor the executives – the question is, as non-executives, should they?

In the UK, the 2006 Companies Act makes no distinction between executive and non-executive directors – giving them equal responsibilities and liabilities. This is the strength of the UK unitary board but it does mean that NEDs with a coaching and mentoring bent should be very clear as to the nature of their role and the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest.

For me, the NED role is best summed up by the two words “Critical friend” – in personal terms they are the friend that tells you that you do have BO!

In the boardroom they are the people who have the company’s best interests at heart and are not afraid to speak out if they think that the executives have gone off-track.

Depending on your view of coaching and mentoring you might also agree that the term “Critical friend” could also apply to the coach/mentor – someone who is supportive and challenging without being directive.

To use a sports analogy, the coach/mentor as NED is a bit like a player manager – someone who is part of the team but is also expected to guide and develop the team. There are few examples of where that is a satisfactory long-term solution for a sports team.

I suspect that whoever wrote the job advertisement for the NED does not have a full understanding of the role of either a non-executive director or that of a coach or mentor – not to say that it is impossible for someone to fulfil all of those roles, just that it would require a very special person with a deep understanding of all three roles.

Hiring a NED is not a cheap way to get a board-level coach or mentor for the executives but hiring a skilled coach or mentor in a non-executive capacity can be a way of adding valuable insight to the board team.


Can I buy you a coffee? or lunch?

May 13, 2015

Two or three times a week I get an e-mail or phone call from someone asking just that – can they buy me a cup of coffee (or sometimes lunch) as they have got something they would like to run by me.

2a7f488Now I’m a sociable sort of chap and think it is important to build and maintain business relationships with a regular sprinkling of face-to-face meetings in coffee shops, cafés or restaurants so I am usually receptive to this type of invitation.

More often than not, the thing they want to run by me is that they are thinking of becoming a Non-Executive Director and don’t really know where to start.

About five years ago, having been asked this question numerous times, I thought I would write the answer in a blog, which I did and I kept adding to it over time to the point where it became a full-blown 1-day course, packed with everything anyone would ever need in order to prepare themselves for a NED role.

I now run this course regularly in Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, London and Oxford. Many people have been on this course and quite a few of them have provided recommendations, which you can read on the NEDworks web-site.

Competition for non-executive roles is fierce, even in the public and voluntary sectors so it is important to be able to differentiate yourself to give you the best chance of being appointed – attending this course and taking the appropriate action will help you to achieve your goal.

I have deliberately priced this course at a reasonable rate – you will see that it is less than half the cost of other similar courses and I keep numbers low so that you get the opportunity to ask as many questions as you need and so that you can engage in high quality discussions about the NED role.

The next few courses are as follows:

If you are a coach or mentor, I am running a special course with Pauline Willis in Oxford on Tuesday 9 June.

You can find more information about the course and book on-line at

So, if you are thinking about becoming a Non-Executive Director then it would be great to meet you on one of these courses – oh and yes, coffee and lunch are included!

David Doughty



Please share this post with anyone who is thinking of becoming a Non-Executive Director, Trustee or Governor

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