Whether you’re a business owner, self-employed, or a professional woman, the day may come when you decide you’re ready to be on a board. There are many reasons to do so—for example, to give back to the community, support a cause you feel passionate about, or wanting to work strategically with peers to steer organisations into the future.
If being a member of a board is something you’re planning for, here are some good basic strategies in terms of getting started on your goal to achieve that board role.
Your very first step is to examine your personal motives for joining a board. Think about just why you want to join a board, what value you can add, and what kind of board you’re interested in. It shouldn’t be to make contacts that will grow your business. The ideal board position is one with an organisation that is aligned with your personal values and in which you can make a difference. It may also present you with mentoring opportunities or even provide you with a mentor to develop you as a Board Director.
Determine Your Value
If your mission is to improve society in some way, look into profit for purpose boards. With no board experience you are likely to find a role in the non-profit/for purpose environment, where there won’t be any compensation. You should also perform a personal inventory of the value you can bring to a board, your personal characteristics, skills, and professional experience to determine where and how you’ll be a good fit.
If you’ve never served on a board, you’re in that classic position so common to aspiring directors —the board wants people with experience, but if you can’t get a board role, how do you get experience? There are opportunities available to help you learn how to be an effective board member. Don’t overlook the value of presenting to a board of directors. And don’t hesitate to ask what the board is looking for in its members. Once you’ve armed yourself with this information, you can start talking to people in your current network about your interest in joining a board and what boards would be of interest. The Australian Institute of Company Directors have many courses to educate you in the roles and responsibilities for being a board director.
Target Your Audience
Very few boards have exactly the right mix of skills and experience they need. Make sure your CV and Board Bio identifies and highlights those areas where you can add value and fill their gaps on the board. Gerri Elliott, founder of Broadrooms.com, points out that you’re selling yourself, so think about being able to say “I can help in these specific ways, in this specific industry or this specific locality.”
In addition to other aspects of skills and experience, think about the unique insights you can bring to a board. For example, if a board is composed primarily of males, how could the female perspective add value to discussions and decision making? Be prepared to present the advantages from the board’s perspective—they need to know what’s in it for them to have you as a board member.
Consider the Possible Downside
If you remember the Enron scandal, you have some idea of what can happen when a board of directors doesn’t fulfil its responsibilities. It’s a good idea to have Professional Indemnity Insurance that covers your board service. The organisation must have Directors and Officers Liability insurance so ask to sight the policy to ensure currency as part of your due diligence process.
Being an effective board member takes work and constant educating of yourself in keeping up to date with economic, social and environmental matters. It means asking tough questions, having courageous conversations and making unpopular decisions when necessary. It may also take a considerable amount of time, so be sure you have the capacity.
Board service is certainly something many aspire to gain. It can help you in your career and give you opportunities you might not otherwise have. Behind Closed Doors offers mentoring and coaching, key insights, networking, and other resources that can help you get started in your board career and boosting your business or professional career.
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