Non-Executive Director Training Guide: The Skills and Courses You Need to Succeed

Non-Executive Director Training Guide: The Skills and Courses You Need  to Succeed

Becoming a non-executive director requires adopting a whole new set of skills, behaviours and specialist knowledge, and the tools to translate executive and c-suite skills to a role with very different requirements, responsibilities and expectations. Specialist training can be critical in gaining the knowledge needed to confidently embark on a NED career, allowing professionals to harness their existing experience and expertise to face the unique challenges of the role, and acquire the broad range of competencies needed to continue to build and grow a portfolio of NED roles once an initial board role has been secured.

Connectd is committed to providing portfolio professionals with access to high-quality training, development and learning resources to support their career aspirations. Pursuing a non-executive career can often seem like a solitary journey, removed from the traditional support structures of colleagues, peer mentors and corporate training, which is why the insight and support provided by specialist NED training can be the critical first step to forging a successful career as a board member.

Essential skills and knowledge for non-executive directors

Non-executives have a very clear and unique position within a board, providing strategic advice and oversight in a number of areas. Successful non-executive candidates will be expected to have the specialist knowledge and understanding to perform their duties and much of the skills and insights required will be new, even to the most experienced professionals. The NED role can be challenging at times and will require an understanding of areas including finance and governance; these responsibilities can have legal repercussions, highlighting the importance of gaining the necessary skills and knowledge to discharge non-executive duties. The main skills and knowledge NEDs require are:

Understanding of corporate governance

Governance is fundamentally a framework which dictates a board’s structure and how it operates. Non-executive directors provide independent oversight to the executive board, advising on their operational activities and strategic implementation. Good governance is critical to the health of the board and the wider business, with NEDs providing guidance to ensure they are operating legally, ethically and in the interest of shareholders, and frequently lead on monitoring and reporting the board’s activities. The UK Corporate Governance Code provides a guide to a number of key components of effective board practice. It is based on the underlying principles of all good governance: accountability, transparency, probity and focus on the sustainable success of an entity over the longer term.

Financial literacy and analysis

NEDs should have a good understanding of board level finances and as assumed level of financial analysis. The ability to understand end of year accounts, balance sheets and other key financial information is crucial to being able to analyse a business’s performance and offer informed advice and constructive criticism. For those professionals with no direct finance experience, training in board level finance can be hugely beneficial.

Strategic thinking and decision-making

Becoming a NED requires a huge shift in mindset, stepping away from the operational day-to-day decisions characteristic of executive and c-suite roles, to offer higher level, longer term strategic advice. NEDs should be looking at preserving the long-term health and prosperity of a business, framing the executive board’s decisions against long-term objectives. NEDs must also provide guidance, rather than directly influencing key decisions within the business.

Risk management and compliance

Non-executive directors must ensure compliance with relevant laws, regulations, and corporate governance standards. NEDs should have a good understanding of the company's activities and risks, and take appropriate steps to monitor and mitigate those risks. There have been a number of high profile corporate scandals in recent years which have been a result of poor risk management by boards. Failing to be compliant with laws and regulations can result in legal repercussions for all board directors, including non-executives (who have the same legal responsibilities as executive directors).

Interpersonal and communication skills

NEDs should be effective communicators, able to express their ideas clearly and concisely. They should also be good listeners, able to ask probing questions and actively engage in discussions. Boards are composed of disparate individuals who may have different ideas, motivations and personality types, so the ability to communicate with a range of people with different perspectives is critical. Being able to persuade and influence, rather than dictate is central to the NED skillset but can prove a big learning curve for those who have traditionally led on decision-making.

Types of non-executive director training

Many professionals may feel that they already possess the skills and knowledge needed to transition to a non-exec career, but will often find they lack certain key competencies when looking to apply for roles. There are a number of training providers who can provide support for those looking to upskill, gain confidence and boost the credibility of their CV.

For those new to the NED space, a comprehensive programme which offers flexibility and learning resources across a number of areas can be a great introduction.

Professional development courses

Connectd’s Transition to Portfolio Programme provides on demand video-based learning, exercise and extra resources to help our members gain knowledge in essential hard skills such as board level finance and governance, alongside the behavioural and attitudinal competencies needed to operate successfully within a board environment.

Even experienced non-executives can benefit from training, whether that be through intensive courses to refresh knowledge in particular areas, understand how to take the step up to a chair position, or acquire the knowledge needed to widen their portfolio career to include new roles such as fractional executive, startup advisory or mentorship roles. Transition to Portfolio offers a range of courses, each focussed on building the skills to hold the vast range of roles available to modern portfolio professionals.

You can preview a module from our Transition to Portfolio programme here.

Mentoring and coaching

The advice of a seasoned board professional can prove invaluable to those at the start of their NED careers, offering support and guidance from someone who’s been there and done it already. Mentors can act as impartial, confidential sounding boards, helping you to build confidence in your skills and decision making once embedded in a business. Connectd’s Transition to Portfolio programme provides a dedicated one-to-one mentor to help our members make the most of their learning resources, and make an impact in their guaranteed pro bono advisory placement.

Peer-to- peer learning & networking

Meeting with other non-executives, both established and aspiring, can be a great way to learn about the role, understand its demands and build vital skills. One of the most crucial aspects of any non-executive’s journey is creating a network of professional contacts who will open doors to opportunities, offer advice, and support your career aspirations.

What are the benefits of non-executive director training?

Undergoing specialist non-executive training can be critical to gaining the skills and knowledge needed to boost your CV, stand out as the optimal candidate and excel once you have landed your first board role. The NED market can be very competitive so by undertaking the right training, you will not only showcase your commitment to the role but also an understanding that all professionals must continue their professional development, whatever the stage of their career. Connectd’s Transition to Portfolio programme has helped hundreds of professionals to gain the skills and knowledge needed to launch their board careers - you can hear from some of those who have found great value in our specialist training here.

How do you choose the right course or training programme for you?

With a number of providers offering non-executive training, it can be difficult to work out which organisation and which course is the right one for you and your career goals. There are some key criteria to consider when comparing providers and courses:

  • Reputation - do your research! Look for testimonials, and scour review sites. If possible, get in contact with someone who has undertaken the training in question and ask for their honest opinion. 
  • Accreditation - learning providers that are accredited or endorsed by professional development organisations are much more likely to provide high-quality and relevant training. CPD accreditation is generally considered the gold standard for professional training in the UK
  • Cost - price ranges can vary wildly from one provider to the next so carefully consider how much bang you can get for your buck, and whether you are likely to get a satisfactory ROI.
  • Time commitment - most professionals that embark on a NED career will have responsibilities and time constraints that could impact on their training. Look for programmes that offer a flexible approach which allow you to work at your own pace if this could be a factor for you.
  • Format & delivery - professional training is increasingly moving online, offering the chance to complete your training where and when you like. On demand video content has seen a huge spike in popularity in recent years and is beneficial to those trying to fit training around other responsibilities and those who like to revisit and reflect on learning materials and content.

Want to know more? Become an non-executive with Connectd 

Connectd is the leading training provider for those looking to build a portfolio career, specialising in working with dynamic, fast-growing early-stage businesses. Our dedicated team of programme leaders and mentors have vast experience of working with founders, boards and leadership teams and have expertly created and curated our Transition to Portfolio programme. 

The Connectd platform offers exclusive roles, pro bono board placements, whitepaper, webinars and networking to complement our specialist training programmes, providing all the tools needed to launch your NED career. Explore how Connectd could help you today

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