If you’re interested in working at board level, having a plural career (where you take on multiple job roles, usually some of which are part-time) or you are an executive who wants to start your board career while in full time work, here are some top tips to consider as you get started.
1. Build a strong relationship with your current CEO
This person is the door into the board. Show the CEO that you have independent value to add around the boardroom table.
2. Nurture networks and wider relationships
Talk to other CEO’s or board members you know about their experiences and discuss your ambitions and options. Join any relevant non-executive networks that are looking for the next cadre of board talent.
3. Bring interesting insight to the top table
Boards love data, trends, and useful analytics. Convince others that your insight is worth sharing with your board. Make it commercially powerful and relevant. Present everything you do to perfection. Make your presentations sing – powerful, impactful, commercial and engaging.
4. Be a game changer
Write and publish your views. Get known as a thought leader or subject matter expert. Share your insights socially, digitally, in printed form, on film.
5. Get to know your board
Find out what your board chair or board member is particularly interested in. This might be about your organisation or it might be more personal concerning a hobby or personal interest they have. When they are in town ask your CEO for an introduction. Share your own thoughts on their chosen area of interest.
6. Ask for a board mentor
Board members are often time poor. That said most are pursuing a plural life because they want to give back, share their wisdom and experience or work on something with a purpose they care about. Asking for a mentor is a genuine and lovely form of flattery. Also think about what you have to offer in return. Reverse mentoring with boards [particularly around the digital agenda] is growing in popularity.
7. Take a pro bono, trustee role
It might be unpaid, a charity, not-for-profit, public sector – it really doesn’t matter. Board experience is board experience. Everyone starts somewhere and it will give you great insight into the governance and running of a board.
8. Use your profession
If you operate in a profession that formally supports the board agenda (such as Finance, Human Resources or Legal) be brave and take a role with a direct board interface. A Reward Director for example, has a guaranteed entry card into board business.
9. Consider your skills and traits
Think about the traits that boards are looking for and understand where you fit or need to develop. For example, all boards require commercial acumen, strategic perspective, an understanding of governance, collaboration, patience and courage. Work on your board strengths and gaps.
10. Have courage
Don’t be afraid to ask for access to your board. Where you can, gently invite yourself – even to do what might seem a service beneath your job title (like taking the minutes).