Four things to do if you want to become a board member
Companies seeking you out for an appointment on their board is a sign that you've reached the next phase of your career. But unless you know how to get the right attention, it’s easy for good executives to be overlooked.
Vicki Allen, Chairman of Mortgage Choice and a graduate of Melbourne Business School's Senior Executive MBA program, shares four tips to help you become a board member.
1. Develop your governance skills
All boards value the unique insights you can bring to the organisation. Strong business expertise or a specialist skill set is critical to consideration for a board member role. But you also need to demonstrate your understanding of the role of a non-executive director.
To do this well, it’s important to develop your governance skills by firstly understanding the regulatory obligations of being a director. ASIC provides some free online material on this topic, and the Australian Institute of Company Directors runs paid courses in capital cities.
As well as understanding the legal requirements, you will also need to think strategically, to be able to challenge and question respectfully and to work constructively with your fellow board members and management team.
2. Nurture your personal connections
A board member appointment often begins with personal connections. Most of the larger recruitment firms have a department that specialises in finding and placing board members. However, personal referrals are usually more effective when it comes to attracting the attention of a board for their selection process.
This process means cultivating relationships with people who can help you access opportunities outside your orbit. These people may be willing to connect with you to help them build their own network as well.
3. Don't just focus on ASX boards
Many people that want to sit on a board of directors focus on securing a role with the board of an ASX-listed company. However many other organisations provide equally interesting and rewarding board or committee roles.
Other kinds of boards include those of government entities and departments, subsidiary boards of larger organisations, private companies, sporting organisations and not-for-profits. It pays to think and look expansively.
When it comes to not-for-profit board appointments, they are often easier to find but may come with extra expectations or requirements. You will need to bring good governance skills, time and a passion for the organisation to these appointments. Some may also expect ongoing financial donations or anticipate that you will use your contacts for fundraising purposes.
4. Bring new skills to the table
The best boards have a diversity of members who can bring different viewpoints and skill sets to the table. Think about what it is that you can offer, and especially if you can bring insight or expertise into trends that are changing business right now.
Digital transformation and disruption, start-up expertise, digital marketing and analytics are all skill areas that boards are considering how best to fill. If you can demonstrate how your specialist experience is unique in an evolving world, it will help you get noticed for a board role.