From Group HR Director to Non-Exec Director with Tea Colaianni

23rd February 2024
Basil le Roux
Partner & Head of Practice

Earlier this week Berwick Partners hosted a dinner in London for a select group of HR professionals to hear from our guest speaker, Tea Colaianni, about her journey from Group HR Director to Non-Executive Director.

Tea has more than 25 years experience in consumer facing industries gained in organisations like Hilton Hotels and Merlin Entertainments, where she was Group HRD between 2010-2016. She has served on multiple boards as a Non-Executive Director. She is currently Senior Independent Director and Chair of the Remuneration Committee at Watches of Switzerland Plc and Non-Executive Director at SD Worx NV.

Over the course of the dinner she spoke about her journey from HRD to NED and gave advice on how to position yourself to gain the right NED appointment in the future. The key points she highlighted included: 

Why do you want to be a NED?

In many respects the most fundamental question you need to be able to answer at interview. It can be helpful to start “small”. Examples including a local business, a charity, a housing association, an NHS Trust or School. These will give you a proper insight into the role of a NED and help build your confidence and self-belief.

Your role is to make recommendations

As a NED you are there to use your experience to advise and influence but you don’t have sole responsibility for decision making. Nor are you responsible for implementation and the running of the business. This can create a challenge when a decision is made that conflicts with your views and beliefs.

Time commitments

Being a NED is time consuming, with a lot of preparation required before meetings, with board papers having to be reviewed and regular discussions with both Executive and Non-Executive members. Consider this balance carefully, particularly when taking on your first NED role alongside your Executive role.

Know when to say no

Being asked to become a NED is flattering. However it is important to do thorough due diligence into the business before agreeing to proceed further. Speak to as many people as you can including their Advisors, current Board members and other NEDs in your network to get their views and opinions before saying yes.

What type of company and what type of Board is it?

Are you fundamentally excited by the company and its products and services. It is great to be wanted but if you cannot get excited about it, have concerns over its corporate structure or you consider it risky is it right for you? As important is the make up of the Board – what role does the Chair play, what is the CEO like and just how important are people to the business?

Use search firms

Ensure that you are well-networked with search firms who work on the right kind of NED opportunities for you. know you are open to NED opportunities.

Tea’s talk and the subsequent discussion were thought provoking, insightful and engaging. We are already looking forward to the next of these events. 

If you interested in attending future events hosted by our HR practice please contact Basil leRoux.

Categories: HR