Getting on a board takes honesty, discipline and hard work

If I had a dollar for every time someone sidled up to me and asked ‘So how do I get on a board?’ I’d be rolling about in a sea of green bank notes!

Which, I guess, means I should be pretty adept at providing the answer – and that is, there is no magic bullet; rather, it’s a process that requires honesty, discipline and good old-fashioned hard work.

The first step is to answer three questions:
1. Do I really want this?
2. If so, do I have what it takes?
3. And if so, what’s the right board for me?

In answering these questions, you might find that you’re working your way up as an executive and while a board position would be ‘nice to have’, your career demands are such that you really don’t have the time to do justice to both offices. That’s fair and good as it gives you your answer. I always maintain that you need to be very good at and on top of your day job before you even consider seeking a board position.

Assuming you’re still in pursuit of that board position, you’d be well-advised to have a clear understanding of the role of a board – and the difference between serving on a board and being part of executive management – your responsibilities and just how demanding a board position can be.

If you think serving on a board is glamourous, think again. In most cases – and when done properly – it’s a demanding and time-consuming, although rewarding, pursuit. It can be tough, too, especially when the company is not performing as expected and hard decisions need to be made.

Those who survive and flourish invariably possess a deep interest in and enthusiasm for the company. They’re also prepared to work very hard to understand the context of the company, the market it operates in, the competition, the products, the services, and so on. And they have an enquiring mind, they’re collegiate team players and they possess the wisdom and courage to make tough calls.

They’re also across the raft of acronyms that are increasingly the language of the boardroom and feel comfortable and at home when conversations are littered with things like ASIC, APRA and HBR.

If you’ve ticked all the boxes and decided to go for it, you’ll do your chances the world of good by identifying those boards that are right for you. They’re the ones that you’re passionate about, where your business connections will allow you to influence stakeholders for the benefit of the company on whose board you serve.

It’s then time to prepare you board biography – highlighting your skills, your passions and the positive difference you believe you can make – and shop it around to the various company registers that hold the names of those interested in securing board positions and among everyone you know who might be able to influence the board positions you seek.

Network, network, network and network again. Ring people up, follow them up…and most important of all, if you really want it, don’t give up.

Good luck!

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One thought on “Getting on a board takes honesty, discipline and hard work

  1. I agree with your advice: too many board members think of the position as a sinecure – and the peak of their professional life without realising the depth of original thought and review capacity that their position demands. One does not look for as board of semi-retired nodders who don’t question and encourage the executive and suggest means and directions which could advance the company. The wisdom of experience should come a long way second to an active thinking review and ideas man/woman who, while certainly not steering into the role of the executive, can add value with innovative thinking. What if we placed an age limit of say 67 on directors and no more than 3×3 year terms?

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