Passing on the baton

South Yorkshire Housing Association have taken the unusual approach of interviewing their last four Chairs to show those considering the role who they are receiving the baton from. We reflect on what that shows us about the role of the Non-Exec.

A big difference between Non-Executive Director or Chair roles and ‘normal’ jobs is that you are only there for a limited season. You start the role with a known end date. Often three terms of three years (if you are re-elected at the end of each of the terms), or usually two terms of three years for those on the board of a Housing Association. You have the responsibilities of an independent Director for a period of time, and then the time will come for you to pass the baton on to someone else.

Do we truly appreciate that we are simply running a leg of the race? What would it look like if we did? When we apply for NED roles, we obviously need to be prepared to articulate our value to the organisation. But we must also spend some time considering what race the organisation is running, what stage we are joining it at.

The idea of stewardship is key to the role of an independent board member. You don’t own the role, or the organisation, you are merely asked to steward it for a period of time. It’s humbling. And it’s a mighty privilege if it’s a mission you believe is worth getting behind!

When organisations advertise their board vacancies, they often focus on what the organisation does, and what they are looking for from candidates. South Yorkshire Housing Association (‘SYHA’) have taken a different approach as they recruit their next Chair; they have introduced applicants to who they are receiving the baton from! They have interviewed their four prior Chairs so you can hear where the organisation has come from, and what the role is really like. 

The closing date for their Chair role is February 27th 2022, you can learn more and watch the video interviews from their Chairs here (on Dynamic Boards), or here (on YouTube).

It is vital that we understand the history of an organisation we are applying to join the board of; not least to avoid repeating past mistakes, but also to value the corporate memory. Adverts for NED roles rarely share much about their history with prospective candidates. They expect candidates to do their research online, or through their contacts. But the challenge therein is twofold: websites rarely tell you much of the organisational story, and we shouldn’t be reliant on people finding out the inside scoop from their contacts or we are back to the old-boys-club recruitment model again!

SYHA’s video interviews with former Chairs encourage candidates that the ‘diversity’ they speak of valuing at SYHA isn’t just in word, but also in action. They have had a great diversity of Chairs, not just in the traditional protected characteristics sense, but also in their variety of professional backgrounds they come from. When you hear these former Chairs speak of how the organisation has developed new housing, undertaken a Race Action Plan, responded to covid, and involved their tenants in decision making, you will get a sense of what they are all about! Truly mission driven, inclusive, and with a history of winning multiple awards for the service they provide.

In the Housing Association sector, the idea of continuing a legacy, or passing on the baton, is especially relevant. Whilst board members are now generally only in post for six years (National Housing Federation’s Code of Governance 2020), tenants may well live in the Housing Association’s properties for a lifetime. As organisations that exist to serve their tenants, board members need to play their part not just with a burst of passion for six years, but rather, with recognition they are stewarding one leg of the race, to create a sustainable and responsible organisation for their current and future tenants.

Thank you to SYHA for taking this fresh approach to introducing candidates to the opportunity to join your board as Chair.

Interested in joining the board of South Yorkshire Housing Association? You can view the details of the role and watch the video interviews with their former Chairs here.

Interested in hearing about non-exec roles? It’s free to view all the roles (sign up here), this market doesn’t need any more paywalls or exclusive access clubs! 

Want help to get your board vacancy advertised to people who will meet your brief and make your board more dynamic? We can help! We are data led in all we do, so we know a lot about the skills, experiences and perspectives of our candidates. We’d love to advertise your role to exactly the right people. Get in touch:

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