If you are an aspiring non-executive board director, (especially if you are younger than the traditional age of directors) then you need what we call the 5 C’s to help find the right seat and the right table. Whether it’s 3-6 months or 3-6 years, its better to know now what is required than wait until you think you’re ready.
Why do you want it, what are your timing expectations and whom do you wish to serve? Being able to have clarity of focus and intent is vital, it can’t just be “I want to be on a board, but I don’t care which one”. It’s better if it’s “I want to be on a board and I want to find out which one”. Do you have the time to commit to being on a board and do you know the best strategy for getting in front of them?
What value will you add to an organisation as a non-executive director. What will be expected of you as a director. Do you know? If you are young, you may not bring governance experience but you could bring passion, expertise, new perspectives, innovative thinking, cognitive diversity, creativity, technology enabled mindset and so on. Even if you know this, how does this match up to the needs of your ideal board role?
Boards are a risk averse bunch who struggle to take a punt on the unknown. Pretty similar to most human groups really! How can you show up as a potential asset and not a risk. This comes down to how you look and act both online and offline. What do others say about you? People don’t buy what you are selling, they buy what others have bought! What does it take to look like a director, even with no board experience? How can you position yourself? Who do you wish to serve and how will your skills, strengths and experiences be best used to serve that board, organisation and its stakeholders.
Boards are still largely recruited via networks and being in the right place at the right time is still the most effective way of getting your ideal board role. Being in the right place at the right time is not about luck, but about connection. Find and broaden you network into the right areas. If you want to be on a social enterprise board, build relationships with leaders in that community. The best way to accelerate things is to develop mentors and sponsors. The latter of those people that get you, understand what you want and how much value you could add (because you’ve told them) and want to help. When they hear of an opening or opportunity they connect you to the board, or the board to you. We always say that “whilst its important what and who you know, it’s more important who know you AND what they say about you.
You don’t need to go it alone. They say it takes a village to raise a child, the same is true of a leader or non-executive director. Besides mentors, sponsors and directors, surround yourself wiht like-minded people who are on a similar journey to you. Seek out each other, hold each other to account (inside and outside the boardroom). Entrepreneurs do it. Employees do it. Why not board directors? Never stop learning and developing.