If landing a seat on a board is one of your goals, you need to do some serious preparation to make it happen. Writing for Forbes, Stuart R. Levine sets out six actions to increase your chances of success.
“It’s critical that you take smart steps to develop your resources and skills into assets that will showcase your credentials and position you for success,” Levine advises.
Based on issues highlighted by specialists at a workshop entitled “Landing Your Next Board Seat” at the 2016 NACD (National Association of Corporate Directors) Global Leaders’ Conference, he offers the following advice.
1) Build an impressive but honest reputation. If you invent or exaggerate any of the responsibilities claimed in your CV, you will be caught out by careful vetting. Likewise, you shouldn’t try to hide any gaps in your CV. Your approach should be ethical and respectful, both in seeking a board seat and in executing your duties in that role.
2) Position and manage your personal brand. Scrutiny from these three key viewpoints should be carefully considered:
- Traditional lens – your marketing assets should include a one-page bio with headshot, a short résumé and a more detailed CV documenting relevant experience and achievements.
- Digital lens – clean up and manipulate your social media and other online presence to give an accurate impression that reflects your suitability for board membership.
- 360° lens – seek feedback from colleagues and advisers, and adjust your brand positioning in the light of it.
3) Make it part of your plan. You have formulated other business objectives into strategic plans, so do the same with your goal of sitting on a board. Instead of looking around randomly, identify a board for which your abilities, experience, passions and values are a good fit. Then think about who might be able to introduce you to the company.
4) Develop genuine relationships. Connections with members of the community can have a great influence on your attractiveness as a board candidate. Make sure the community knows you. Networking tips include:
- Connecting with “connectors” – influential contacts such as mergers and acquisitions lawyers, CEOs, headhunters and other active networkers.
- Being available for networking and seeing it as an important part of your work.
- Writing articles and sharing knowledge.
- Commenting and advising on issues.
- Inviting people from a diversity of backgrounds to dinner.
- Going out and making diverse contacts.
- Nurturing each relationship without necessarily setting timelines or predetermining outcomes.
5) Work on your tone. Learn to push back and question what you hear in a way that is firm but friendly. Disagreement, if handled constructively, is an aid to making good and well-informed decisions. Cultivate and emphasise soft skills such as articulate argument, thoughtfulness and the ability to build consensus.
6) Prepare yourself fully for each interview. That includes reading everything you can about the company. Treat every related call or meeting as part of the interview, and concentrate throughout. Be ready to ask questions and, through candidly discussing issues, test whether the company matches your requirements. In this way you can establish whether the fit works both ways.
The following questions could help:
- What have been the key driving forces of your company’s success?
- What major challenges might prompt you to re-evaluate your business?
- What is the CEO’s scheduled retirement date and are you able to share a succession plan with me?
- Can I talk to the CEO to help my understanding of your company’s direction?
- Can I see your financial statements?
- Can you show me the minutes from your most recent board meetings?
- What are your directors’ and officers’ policies?
Levine reminds readers that interviewing is both an art and a science, involving emotional intelligence and much intuitive thinking.
Whether you are seeking your first board seat or looking to add another to your portfolio, the practical actions summarised here will help you succeed in that ambition. More importantly, they will increase the probability that in fulfilling your board member role you will add value to the organisation while gaining personal satisfaction from the experience.