Nurole's “15 minutes with…” series offers insights from some of the most influential business leaders out there. Our inaugural interview features FTSE 350 TT Electronics PLC NED and FTSE 250 Mitie PLC NED and Rem Com Chair Jack Boyer, who recently took on another chair position through Nurole. He shares his advice on what makes a good non-executive director and chair together with some more personal insights as well reflections on his Nurole experience.Background
Jack Boyer is currently a non-executive director of Mitie plc and TT Electronics plc, where he also chairs the Remuneration Committees and is a member of the Audit and the Nominations Committees. He also chairs AET (the Academies Enterprise Trust) which is the largest multi academy trust in the UK. He is a member of Council of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and chairs the Advanced Materials Leadership Council at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He has extensive earlier career experience as an entrepreneur and a CEO in engineering and biosciences.
He holds degrees from Stanford University (BA Hons), the London School of Economics (M.Sc.) and Insead (MBA). He was awarded an OBE in 2015 for services to Science and Engineering.
Best advice anyone gave you?
A wise chair once advised me to always try to look past the obvious path. It is usually the easiest but not always the right path to take. I learned from this chair to adopt an inherent scepticism and it has served me well. On multiple occasions I have seen executives set on telling and pursuing a particular story which could have led to real issues had we not explored alternative avenues.
Advice for anyone looking for first NED role?Whether it’s a paid or pro bono role, you have to like the sector you are getting involved in as a non-executive director. All of us perform our best when we like what we’re doing and feel that it matters. Title and prestige are never sufficient motivation.
Key to being a good NED?
Having a low ego. Boards don’t function properly if you have non-executives grandstanding rather than figuring out how to ask the questions that can help the organisation.
Key to being a good Chair?
Being a good listener. The best chairs are those that listen the most, making sure they are getting all the opinions around the table. The best input often comes when you least expect it. When chairs manage for a given outcome, it impoverishes decision making. Good chairs typically speak 10% of the time, be it in or out of the board. When they do speak, people listen.
Your greatest mistake as a NED or executive that you think others can learn from?
Overreacting to the mood swings of stakeholders.
Advice to yourself on what you can improve as a NED and how to go about it?Stay closer to stakeholders and use more informal engagement rather than formal processes through advisors. I’m not a fan of the pub or other forms of ‘relaxed engagement’ but I try to make sure I’m always the last person to leave a meeting - I find people want to engage, the problem is they are often afraid. If you are just there and make yourself available without appearing pressed for time, they will reach out to you.
What is your most effective method for assessing prospective new hires?I rely heavily on face-to-face interactions and I will over-interview compared to most people, meeting at least 6-7 candidates for any role. I use a two-stage process with an initial screening interview followed by a more in-depth discussion. I look for two key ingredients: raw smarts (the ability to think about new issues in a smart way, rather than simply being well researched) and integrity. Smart people will figure things out even if they are not experts and, if integrity is fundamental to their motivation, they will always get it right.
When have you got a hiring decision most wrong and what did you learn?Invariably my hiring mistakes have occurred when I have been under time pressure. If you make a mistake hiring the wrong person, it’s always best to address it head on and get rid of the person. The worst thing to do is trying to save face by delaying. Of course, it’s disruptive and does not enhance your own credibility but it’s the right thing to do.
Your Nurole Experience
How did you hear about Nurole?
A FTSE 100 NED recommended me for a role.
What made you sign up?
There are various initiatives out there which purport to cater to non-executive directors but I’m fortunate to get approached regularly by headhunters so I don’t sign up to digital platforms as a rule. However, I did some due diligence on Nurole amongst peers after being recommended for membership and got positive feedback which gave me the comfort to register. I liked that the platform respects its members’ privacy, making it my decision which roles to apply for and not making my details public. I’m also an entrepreneur at heart and like to support good ideas.
How have you found the experience as a member?
Really good. The platform doesn’t push lots of garbage (the filtering system works well). The application form is not too complicated but substantive enough that you feel you have represented yourself fully.
What made you continue to apply although you were unsuccessful with your first few Nurole applications?I did start to wonder if the platform actually worked but I could see my unsuccessful applications were being taken seriously and that I was getting visibility on opportunities that I wasn’t being told about through my regular headhunting contacts.
What advice would you have for other members applying through the platform?Read the application form carefully.
About You: 10 Question Quickfire
Three words those who know you best would use to characterise you:
Committed, honourable, exigent.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez.
The Gate, Islington (vegetarian).
“Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end” (Oscar Wilde).
Professional achievement of which you are most proud?
Leaving most situations, where I had responsibility, better than I found them - may not be fixed or perfect, but better.
Role model / mentor?
My wife. I really mean that.
How many hours do you sleep on average?
Best idea for a £10,000 investment?
2015 Burgundy vintage is looking good!