Clive Lewis is a leading dispute resolution specialist and founding director of the Globis Mediation Group. He is an accredited commercial mediator specialising in helping to solve complex one on one, team, organisational, multi-party and collective disputes. Earlier this year he spoke at our annual HRM conference and we were lucky enough to conduct an interview with him.
Can you tell us more about your experience of working on a board/on boards?
I have 10 years’ board experience all together whilst acquiring both paid and unpaid positions across the education and health sector. I have sat on boards for an academy, a small youth jazz orchestra organisation, I have chaired boards for an open college for post 18-year-old students, I was a non-exec director of a large hospitals trust and I am currently board member of the University of West England.
How did you make it to the board? What other positions have you held?
I first made it onto a board when I was invited to join by the open college network due to the fact that I was already running my own business back then. Before my board career, I’ve held senior management roles within retail and the technology sector.
Does being a good executive director directly translate into being a strong board member?
Not exactly, an executive director often plays as an operator who has to manage a team, whereas a primary role for a board member is governance and you could sometimes be managing colleagues who are non-execs.
What are the three most exciting reasons to work on a board?
I believe the most exciting and important reason is governance, to ensure your organisation is governed well. Secondly, I believe that the organisation’s mission is vital i.e. A hospital’s mission would be to ensure the best care and wellbeing of its patients. Finally, I would say self- development.
Can you tell us more about working on a board – what it entails and who you work with. (E.g. is this a full time role? How often do you meet? What type of work does it involve?)
I’ve held non-exec roles which are part time. You will have scheduled meetings that usually take place every one or two months. Outside of these meetings, you have committee meetings. Board packs are sent prior which you are expected to read before and prepare any questions you have for the board.
Do you have any (possibly quirky) anecdotes that you would like to share about your board experiences?
I particularly find it amusing when you can tell someone has ‘zoned’ out. When someone has been asked a question but they can’t answer because they weren’t listening. Can be quite embarrassing!
If you’ve worked in different sectors (e.g. start-up, third sector, public sector, private sector) on boards, were there any noticeable differences?
I’ve worked across all three sectors, and the main difference is pace. The public sector you will find the pace is very slow compared to the private sector which is incredibly fast paced. This is due to the fact that these organisations are funded both very differently, private has the funds of its customers/ investors whereas the public sector have to rely on government funding which can slow processes down.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing traditional ‘board culture’ today?
I believe that board members being offered tenure could be an issue. I believe it’s important to keep the board fresh and there should be a limit as to how long you can serve on a board. Another issue we are facing is not all board cultures are open to challenge their board members. We need to be able to challenge in order to ensure our mission is on track.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to work their way up to board level?
The best advice I could give someone is how important it is to build and form strong relationships. If you are unable to build relationships within the industry, I’m afraid you will not get far.
There is currently a lot of focus on board diversity. Do you think that having high levels of diversity is always a good thing, or can too much diversity hinder the work done by a board?
I believe a focus on diversity within the boardroom is ultimately a good thing. The board should reflect the patients or customers it’s organisations serve. However, if someone has been promoted simply to address a diversity issue, then this can be very dangerous and can sometimes cause more harm than good.
Many thanks to Clive Lewis for taking the time out to conduct this insightful interview with the Westminster Business School. To see more about his current work in the field visit www.globis.co.uk and www.bridgebuilders.org.uk