Board director: are you ready?

Published: 23/02/2014

Now that we are talking so much about women on boards, are you ready?

I don’t mean do you have the career experience and skills to be earn a board seat. I am sure you have lots to contribute. I mean are you looking at all the practical things and information to prepare you in landing that board appointment?

Just typing “how to become a board director” in google gets you about 483,000,000 results. Therefore, I thought some tips to navigate this might be useful.

1. Networking & Speaking up

If you are interested in a board seat you need to speak up and let the world know. Just hoping someone will recommend/remember you or that it will come to you is not enough.

Talk to your professional & sector network first. Then reach out to industry bodies, be they geology & engineering associations, accountancy, finance & law associations and many more.

Secondly, register with associations like Women on Boards Australia, Women on Boards UK as well as Global Board Ready Women (GBRW), 2020 Women on Boards and 30% Club to name a few. And don’t forget your women in mining groups!

Thirdly, you need to connect with specialised headhunters that focus on female board appointments and there are a number out there, some operate on a regional & international scale, some are country specific. There are also some specialising in natural resources.

I kindly want to point out BlueSteps, a gateway to executive jobs filled exclusively by executive search firms. BlueSteps is not a mass job board or social network. BlueSteps is a discreet career-long service that connects you to top executive search firms in more than 75 countries. Start your complimentary BlueSteps membership to access opportunities (promo code ‘GBRW’ at checkout).

2. Reading, Research, Learn & Practice

All these associations can help you with the practical steps about what to do to get a board appointment like how to put yourself across, how to write a board CV and learn tips and tricks about governance and more via events and seminars.

You can read and learn about duties and responsibilities of a board director and find out about the many different types of boards you can serve on, there aren’t only corporate boards. Some appointments are remunerated some aren’t.

3. Once you get appointed

“Starting a new directorship means you may be confronted with a range of challenges. They might include getting to know a group of new people or an unknown culture. Since new directors lack a window to see into how a particular board works, here are few areas of focus to help create early success:

Know the people: Learn each director’s background and ask about their priorities for the company. Do the same with the CEO. Be very clear on your colleague–centric fit with the other directors.

Know the board’s ecosystem: Every board has its own culture, or ecosystem. Don’t be unaware of these dynamics and the power relationships among board members and management. Ask each director and the CEO their view of the board’s culture.

Know how you are viewed: It is important to know who pushed the vote to go your way. These are often very competitive situations, and someone on the board thought you were the best candidate. Find out who and why. Then look to see how this person fits into the board’s ecosystem. Chances are you will be seen or affiliated with the board in the same way. (In time you will make your own identity.)

Being an exceptional director is both an art and a science. Remember that achieving excellences is a process, a journey, not an ultimate destination.”

These tips are from Tracy Houston who is a Board Advisor from the US. She has written a number of handbooks on how to become a board director which you can find here. Her little test is called Are you Director Material?

Lucy P.Marcus is an award-winning and internationally recognised expert on boards, corporate governance, and leadership . She wrote a great piece about this called New Board Members: Hit the Ground Running. For more conversations on boards and the changing boardroom you might like the tv series she hosts for Reuters “In the Boardroom with Lucy Marcus”.

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