A trio of tips so you don’t trip up on your journey to a Board

There’s a certain allure about serving on a board and it’s not hard to understand why. There’s the status, the professional development it offers, that special access to other influential business leaders and, of course, a warmth that comes from ‘giving something back’, especially when you’re sharing your talents with the not-for profit sector.

And while the motivators may be many, there are just three stages you need to cover off on if you’re to end up at the right company, on the right board. Let’s call them my trio of tips…

They cover what to do in preparation, what to do to make the approach and those things to consider before saying yes.

In preparing, work out how your skill set and experience equips you to serve on a board as opposed to hold an executive position. The former is a strategy and policymaking vehicle that gives life to the strategic direction of the company and makes it integral to the company’s culture; the latter attends to matters operational.

Also identify your point of difference, that special something you can add to the board’s skill mix. But remember, whatever it is, it needs to be over and above the two givens – an understanding of a set of accounts and being au fait with governance. And if you have skill deficiencies in these areas, do something about it, enrol for a course and get the required knowledge.

Before making your approach, it’s best to reflect, too, on what you’re passionate about. As boards sap your energy and require a high degree of commitment, it makes the journey easier and more successful when you’re in a field where there’s fervour, so create a shortlist of organisations in these sectors and research them.

In making your approach, it’s a bonus if you know someone on the boards you’re after as it allows you to ring them up, arrange a coffee catch-up, stress your interest and leave them with your biography.

But even if you don’t know anyone, don’t despair and contact the chair!

Again, stress your interest, share the skills you offer, tell them you’d love to be considered for a position and send over your biography.

Then it’s time to do a bit of fiducial flirting.

Tell everyone you know that you’d love to be on a board in this or that particular sector and that you’re actively looking. And follow up periodically, with the chairs and with everyone else.

The strategy has worked a treat, your labours have won the day and you’re now shortlisted. You see a successful final sprint to the line. But before you commit, consider the directors and make sure you admire them and would feel comfortable working with them.

 

Conduct due diligence on the company, its financials, its directors and officers insurance, and if it all comes up smelling like roses, say YES. If not, think twice, perhaps even three or four times…

Except, of course, if it’s your first foray into the world of boards.

Experience is vital, so disregard EVERYTHING I’ve said before (except insolvency), grab the opportunity, learn on the job and gain that proficiency that will make you even more sought-after in the months and years ahead.

Until next time,
Kate.

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