The Fine Line That Good Non-Execs Must Tread; Ahead of the Nonexecutive of the Year Being Announced at the North East Business Executive of the Year Awards Next Week, We Examine the Role of the Non-Executive Director

The Journal (Newcastle, England), November 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Fine Line That Good Non-Execs Must Tread; Ahead of the Nonexecutive of the Year Being Announced at the North East Business Executive of the Year Awards Next Week, We Examine the Role of the Non-Executive Director


CAN you differentiate between the roles of the non-executive and the executive director? Margaret Fay, winner of the 2013 Non Executive of the Year Award, was posed this question in the information she received for the role of chair at One NorthEast.

"It got me thinking deeply," Margaret admitted. "I was already a nonexecutive director at Darlington Building Society but I realised I needed to take a step back and analyse the role in detail."

"The non-exec is there to work with the executive to determine the strategy and direction of the organisation, but is not there to run the business and I realised that being a non-executive chairman is very different from my role as chief executive.

"You are there to support the exec board in achieving their objectives, and while you have certain fiduciary responsibilities, you are not there to tell them how to do their jobs."

Margaret Fay is clear that the role is one of mentoring; to support the executive using your skills and experience to help them reach a decision or recommendation. It is easier to take that helicopter view of an organisation when you are not involved in the minutiae of the day to day, which can cloud one's judgment. A nonexecutive director is a catalyst, but they must not go that step too far into the executive role.

As chair of One NorthEast, initially Margaret found the hardest part was getting used to not being in control "I had been chief executive at TTTV, but as a non-executive you have to adjust to knowing things are happening and decisions are being taken that you have nothing to do with. That's a big learning curve.

"You have to sit back, be hands-off. …

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