8 of 50

2019 is our 50th anniversary and we are championing some of the people who help make Scottish Ballet a great place to work. Each week we will introduce you to a different career at Scottish Ballet and the person behind it. 

Norman Murray has been Chairman of Scottish Ballet since 2013, and has had a successful career in a number of executive roles, including Chairman of The Edrington Group and President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

We spoke to Norman about his very first job, and he shares his advice for anyone thinking about joining a Board. 

Norman Murray and Christopher Hampson at Scottish Ballet's Season Launch. Photo by Kirsty Anderson.

What was your first job?

My first job was as a Christmas postman while a student. I learned a great deal about what long work hours meant, getting on with people and the job (despite issues such as rain, snow and ice), finding time for older and lonely people who just wanted to chat, coping with fierce looking dogs, and the value of arriving on time and working efficiently.

As you know it was announced publicly this week Scottish Ballet has been listed in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to work for in the Not for Profit sector. As Chairman of Scottish Ballet what do you think makes it such a great place to work?

The culture of the organisation and its continuing ability to 'inspire on stage and beyond' make Scottish Ballet such a great place to work. I see it as an organisation which is run most professionally, both onstage and off. All of this requires effective leadership - at all levels, not only the executive level - as well as cooperation across all teams. 

The results of our recent staff survey, and our listing in the Top 100 Companies, support my own personal experience of the company over the last five years.

What attracted you to Scottish Ballet and how did you get involved as a Board Member?

I have always had an interest in the arts and for many years have been involved in pro-bono work of some sort. So when I saw the role of Chair of Scottish Ballet advertised I was keen to explore it further.

I was invited to join the board as Chair at the AGM in December 2013. I did not have a detailed knowledge of ballet, but had much experience of business: from governance and strategy, to encouraging an open and positive culture. I also thought I could contribute to the fundraising activities, as well as help to deal with financing and structural issues which are always a feature of any business. In return I was keen to learn more about the art form, other access activities and the management of an arts organisation - so it was a two way proposition!

I have not been disappointed and the position has been extremely satisfying and rewarding for me personally.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about joining a Board?

Joining a board is a commitment which needs mutual thought and consideration - by the individual and the organisation - so should not be rushed. Once appointed the responsibility and commitment starts. I liken the process to buying a property, which involves checking it out before committing: when you buy it and step inside, all looks a little different and things can go wrong. Organisations tend to also look and feel different from the inside. 

My advice would be for you to take your time and really get to know the organisation and its people from the inside, not totally relying on external perceptions or preconceived impressions. Similarly, the organisation should do the same with the individual in terms of disclosure of facts not otherwise obvious and assessing whether there is a good match between what the organisation requires and what the individual can offer.

What’s your ‘get up and go’ song?

I love music from classical to contemporary but in all honesty do not have a 'get up and go' song. I do like periods of silence especially first thing in the morning. Such silence either in the morning or out on the hills or preferably both gives me time to think and the energy to get on with things when required!

Although, I can definitely be inspired or emotionally moved by listening to songs such as The Messiah, Highland Cathedral on the pipes or John Lennon’s Imagine.