Stepping up from a Senior Executive position into the role of a Board Director brings with it much responsibility, commitment and risk. Yet for many executives, becoming an Advisory Board member is often the next, logical move in the course of their careers, particularly if they love business governance.
But beyond this first decisive step, there is much work to be done and setting strong foundations now for successful appointments later on is mandatory before even the most experienced executive can even begin to apply for their first Board role.
Assess Your Knowledge & Experience
There is no doubt that you have an understanding of your value as a Board candidate, but it is crucial at this stage that you assess your knowledge and experience in relation to Directorship requirements and responsibilities. While your knowledge might make a great senior executive, you might not yet have what it takes to carry out a Board Director’s duties.
In the very early stages, perusing Board position descriptions and advertisements is a good way to get an idea of the skills and expertise that you require as a Director.
This will help you determine whether or not your current experience is able to compete with the calibre of other candidates in the Board recruitment space or if you need to set up your foundations a little more strongly or gain more experience before moving ahead with your Board applications.
Network With Other Directors
Networking with other Directors is one of the best ways you can enhance your Board career. Existing Board Directors can provide you with incredible insight into what is involved when sitting on a Board and many Directorship opportunities can also arise through your connections and contacts, which can give you an amazing competitive advantage when it comes time to vie for the role.
It will be vital to connect with existing Board Directors in your industry (and in other sectors) and to cultivate these relationships on a long term basis, to the point at which they can actually impact your Board career. You obviously know how to network at this senior level, so expanding your circles to include Board Directors is a great way to build rapport with those who matter and solidify your Board support for years to come.
Make Training & Education a Priority
While CEOs may have the privilege of being an Executive Director, other members of the senior executive team may not always have the opportunity to sit on the company Board. For this reason, obtaining the right Board education and training is critical, if only because you need to develop an acute awareness of the strict responsibilities, accountabilities and practices that are involved at the Board level.
What Type of Board Role Do You Want?
Wanting to become a Board Director is one thing, but the multitude of businesses and Boards out there is very diverse. What types of Boards and organisations do you want to contribute to? Are you interested in start-ups, private businesses, Not-For-Profit organisations, rapid expanding commercial enterprises or ASX-listed companies? Do you want to work with companies that are in the early stages of their life cycle or with ones that are already established in the marketplace.
Your key strengths and expertise will be mostly indicative here about what you can bring to an organisation. However, you will need to have a serious think about what types of governance issues you want to be involved in. Some Directors love the idea of getting a new product off the ground, while others are more focused on commercial strategies and growth; some are great at advising on legal or financial issues and others are masters of managing risk.
While it is highly unlikely that you will be able to step up straight away onto an ASX 200 Board, understanding your target Board role will assist you in developing your career direction and deciding what type of Board position you want to start with in the short term.
Create Your Own Criteria
Creating, developing and communicating your own “career criteria” is also critical in building strong foundations, as this will essentially shape how your Board career comes to fruition. Your criteria should include decisions or information about:
- The level of commitment you are willing to make as a Director and how much time per month/quarter/year you are willing or able to dedicate to your Board duties
- The level of legal and financial accountability you are willing to take on as a Board Director; this can differ between organisations, so you need to decide what liabilities you are comfortable with
- What type of compensation you want to receive as a Director; if you strictly want to be remunerated, you will need to figure out how much remuneration you are expecting
- Whether any conflicts of interest exist that could impact your Board decisions and success; for instance, if you currently work in one organisation, you may not be able to serve on the Board of a competitor organisation
Perfect Your Image & Brand
As the old adage goes, “image is everything. Branding yourself well in the marketplace is one of the most prosperous ways to set up your personal foundations and secure your success for the future. Your personal image and brand should speak volumes about the unique value and talents you can offer as a Board Director and this alone can be enough to attract the attention of various leaders, organisations and Boards.
Even if you do end up applying for Board roles traditionally, hiring executives and other Board Directors will most likely want to know more about you – and they often turn to the web, and other offline resources, to conduct their research. When encountering your brand in these spaces, your professional image can often “make or break” your success.
If you are unsure how to effectively develop your brand, working with an Executive Coach or Consultant may be ideal. These experts will be able to help you create and establish your brand both online and offline, and they may also be able to assist you with your Board resumes, cover letters and other documentation once it comes time to begin applying for Directorship roles.