Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Joining a Board
We live life forward, and understand it in reverse.
Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we did it the other way around?
As a board member you will experience things that you would never have considered prior to joining a board. As such, you will learn tough lessons and learn more about yourself than ever before. This is a good thing! All experiences are moments of growth and learning.
I am sharing five things that I have experienced as a board member that I wish I knew before I started my board career. They would have made the journey a little easier; however, I’m certainly grateful for the growth opportunities!
1. I will be intimidated by my fellow board members
… but will quickly realise that qualifications, recognitions, and certain post-nominals don’t make someone a good board member.
Don’t let yourself feel that you have nothing or less to offer simply because you don’t have a particular qualification, set of post-nominals following your name, or number of years on a board. The vast majority of these ‘measurements’ have no bearing on someone’s ability to be a good board member; nor does the absence of these attributes mean that you can’t or won’t be a great company director.
2. I will feel unsure of what to do next
… but I will learn to – where appropriate – rely on my fellow board members to rise to their strengths when needed.
This is the strength and beauty of having a well-rounded and balanced board. The times when you feel that you have nothing to contribute are the times that allow other board members to step up and into their unique talents. This is the beauty and value of any high performing team.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to know everything.
3. I will screw up
… but it won’t be the end of the world.
Everyone makes mistakes; even directors. Thankfully, most mistakes are small. Misspeaking, losing my composure, not preparing enough for a meeting, swearing, and being distracted in a meeting are just some of the screw-ups I’ve personally made as a board member.
They are uncomfortable to admit, but I have learned and grown from them all.
4. A good, strong Chair makes all of the difference
Make a point to interview the board Chair extensively about their leadership style, the board culture, and the performance of the board / other board members. Having a strong leader on a board is absolutely paramount to having a successful board that adds value to the organisation and a fun experience for everyone around the table.
5. I will have to make decisions that have serious consequences on peoples’ lives
Thankfully I can count on one hand the instances when I have had to make these types of decisions.
Although you never want to have to make such drastic decisions, having a strong and cohesive behind the decision makes it that little bit more tolerable.
When these instances came up, I was certain of my decision, yet I was filled with doubt. I had no way of predicting how the future would unfold.
In these moments you have to do what you think is best given the information and circumstances at the time. That’s all anyone can do. And that’s all anyone can expect of you.
“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
The experiences you have throughout your board career enable you to continue to grow and develop into a strong, well-rounded board member.
I hope some of my experiences help you to go into your board career with eyes that are open a little wider and a greater awareness of where some of the greatest lessons will come from.