Describe, briefly, your role as a non-executive director:
A non-exec is a director of the board, sitting alongside the executive directors. The role of the non-executive is one of independence: we’re there primarily to look after governance, control, and strategy, as well as to advise on people issues.
What skills are needed to be a good non-executive director?
The main requirement is experience – either in business itself or in public office – of how organisations are run and the challenges of management. Each non-exec brings different skills from their own experiences, which helps strengthen the board. Having a range of different experiences like finance, marketing and IT all helps add up to a stronger board overall.
What’s the best thing about being a non-executive director at Diageo?
Diageo is a world class, fantastic company to work within. It operates at a very high standard and is a world leader in the alcohol beverage market. It’s a great privilege to serve a company of such great stature.
And what’s the biggest challenge?
To maintain a challenging mind. As independent directors, challenge is our strength. We need to be very aware of what’s going on, and give both support and challenge to the management, who have the day to day job of running the company.
Where and how did you start your career?
My executive career started as a school entrant – for family reasons I didn’t take a degree course – but I took professional exams within Norwich Union the insurance company (now part of Aviva). I then had the privilege of working in lots of different parts of the company during my 38 years there. I simply started at the bottom and finished at the top!
What advice would you give to aspiring young business leaders?
Just be yourself: don’t try to be someone else. Develop your own skills so that you can add value to the company you work for, but always be true to yourself.