Lesley Lloyd is a Governor at the University of Central Lancashire, where she chairs the Sustainability Committee (SustCo) and also sits on the Audit & Risk Committee. Lesley is also an Advisor at M&I Material Ltd and a Mentor for women who are at, or aiming for, C-Suite level.
You can listen to Lesley’s story in full on podcast here or search ‘Women on Boards Success Stories’ in all major apps:
FINDING YOUR BOARD VALUE-ADD
I started my board career well over ten years ago, now. Following several senior marketing roles in large corporates, I had taken a part-time role as an interim Chief Marketing Officer when my children were small. But I realised I needed more of an intellectual challenge combined with a much more flexible career path. I felt a non-executive career might offer what I was looking for.
When ‘male, pale and stale’ still prevailed
Back then, Women on Boards didn’t exist so the only place I knew to look for roles was the Sunday Times. I saw a Chair position at Visit Lancashire, applied and got the role! Later on, the one woman on the recruiting panel told me that she had really had to fight to get me appointed. The others had preferred the more ‘male, pale and stale’ candidates but she really pushed for me. Now I think if it wasn’t for Nicky, I may not have ended up going down this path.
Why networking is key
I should just make clear that, looking back, that appointment was pure fluke. Please don’t think it is representative of non-executive appointments! I’ve applied for many more roles since and have a fairly appalling strike rate on those ‘cold’ applications. That’s why networking is so important – when you have a connection with that board, I tend to find success rate a little better, but it is still highly competitive. I remember Women on Boards helped me get feedback on one interview through a connection, as I didn’t get much officially .
“They said I didn’t get the role simply down to ‘serendipity’. By the time you’re at interview stage, everyone is good enough so you do need a bit of luck on your side.”
What I did realise in that first board, and Chair, position, is that I am good at this. I was leading on strategic matters, ensuring the effectiveness of the board and individual directors and also did a lot of work in building up relationships with external stakeholders.
As I had that external figurehead role, for an organisation representing 55,000 jobs and £3.5bn in the local economy, I found other organisations wanted me on their boards to represent my board, if you see what I mean. That is how I built up a portfolio career, almost by default.
Invest in yourself
Most recently, I’ve joined a much bigger board of the University of Central Lancashire. I’ve learnt a huge amount on this board, especially as I also sit on the Audit and Risk committee. With a non-executive career you need to invest in upskilling yourself. Audit is a continuous learning curve, so I’ve found some external IoD courses and our audit partners have been incredibly helpful. Risk has come more naturally to me and is something I really enjoy.
As a marketing person, that external horizon scanning and risk assessment has always been part of my day job so it was natural for me to realise the potential of and upskill on environmental matters , so I now Chair a SustCo.
So I am also driving forward a greater focus on environmental issues within the University. As you can imagine, the students are very engaged in those issues but also, as a £250m turnover organisation, there is a lot of regulation coming in and we need to be sure we can meet those requirements.
Finding your value-add
Why I’m doing this, I would again bring back to my marketing training. I am responsive to the voice of the customer. As a marketeer, I am used to looking outside, seeing the trends coming down the line and understanding what impact they will have on the organisation. That is a real value-add to a board, but one I find you often need to spell out to recruiters who don’t always understand that a marketing background can offer this.
My NED portfolio has also enabled me to upskill in all sorts of areas – ESG, audit, chairing and I do love risk. I’m very fortunate to be part of some great boards, and I’ve learned a lot from other directors and chairs. It is so important to work with chairs that you respect but also that you can learn from.
A board career is highly recommended
Overall, I would highly recommend a board career. It’s fascinating to gain a deeper understanding of how an entire company comes together, and all the different strings that can be pulled to create quite different outcomes.