Many young directors often worry that when they begin their board career, they won’t make the impact that they want or expect. They feel that they have so much to learn and little to offer. As I discussed in a previous article, this is absolutely not true. By merely being there, you’ve already proven that you have unique value to offer and the power to improve the organisation’s future.
However, knowing this doesn’t always dispel the anxiety that comes with being on a board. It’s important to make sure that your voice is heard, but this is always easier said than done. That’s why I’m writing this article about the top two main principles we teach at Future Directors, and how you can use them to speak up among your fellow directors.
The first principle is about knowing how to prepare for your director role, and executing your preparations correctly. Practically speaking, good preparation is important so that you’re fully conversant with the matters at hand and up to speed, but it’s also important psychologically too. If you’re well prepared, you’ll feel more confident in yourself and therefore more liable to speak up and have your voice heard.
On a simple level, you need to make sure that you’ve done all the groundwork ahead of a board meeting. Of course, this means reading through all the necessary papers, and preparing questions and thoughts you have on the topics being discussed. Don’t forget, everything you put forth in a meeting should be well-backed up with substance. Don’t just speculate. Add evidence to your opinions. This could be research reports, articles or surveys. It could even be your own personal experience, as long as it carries enough weight.
On the deeper side of preparation, you’ll want to have a good understanding of your fellow directors and the organisation’s stakeholders. What are their drivers and motivations? Where are they strong and weak? And what unique value can you offer into the fray? Once you know all of this, you’ll feel more fortified in your place there and your confidence will be soaring.
Be Active, Not Passive
Of course, this article is all about speaking up and having your voice heard, so you don’t need me to tell you not to remain passive vocally. However, you can go one step further and offer up your services in different areas of the organisation. This is what the second principle is all about. Don’t be afraid to stick your hand up and volunteer to perform additional work. This way, you’ll be recognised by your fellow board members as someone who is not only an expert in their field, but also a proactive member of the team.
Another level of being active is standing up for what you believe in, and being willing to fight your corner. I wrote in a previous article about knowing your values and communicating them to your fellow directors, but it’s important to mention again here, as you need to assert your personality if you want others to respect you. This isn’t about being unnecessarily aggressive; it’s about knowing what you stand for and sticking up for those values when you think you need to.
More than anything, having the confidence to speak up in the boardroom comes down to feeling comfortable in your surroundings. And if you’ve picked the right board for you, it shouldn’t take too long to start feeling at ease. However, you should never shrink away from getting your point across because you don’t believe you have the experience or expertise. With the combination of good preparation and knowledge of your own values, you already have the tools required to be a big success in the boardroom.