How to Approach an Organisation about a Board Position
Over the past couple of months we have shared a lot of tips and information around attaining your first (or second) board position. If you’ve gone through the process of identifying the types of organisation(s) that you would like to contribute your time and skills to, worked on your personal brand, have begun strategically networking, and prepared your board resume, the next step may be to begin approaching organisations directly to begin the process of joining their board.
This requires a delicate approach. What I mean by that is do not spam a whole bunch of organisations with a generic letter of interest in joining their board. It is likely that you will never hear from them, word will get around about your behaviour, and no one will hire you for their board. Your board career will be over before it even starts.
This article shares a more effective process for you to take appropriate control of your board journey and gain a seat at the table.
Once you have identified the organisation(s) you would like to join, take some time working out where your skills, knowledge, abilities, and network could add value to that particular organisation. Look at the profiles of the current board members and senior executives using their website and LinkedIn. Note down any skills gaps that you may be able to fill. Compare these with the strategic objectives of the organisation and identify how you are able to specifically and uniquely assist in the achievement of these goals. As you’re researching the business, note down any opportunities that you may be able to assist with that are not currently being explored. This is also useful information to have on hand if and when you interview for the board position.
2. Reach Out
Talk to one of the board members about your interest in joining the board. I recommended talking with the Chair of the Nominations Committee (this is the committee that looks after director selection and recruitment, and can sometimes be the responsibility of the Governance Committee) or with the Chair of the Board.
Ask how you can register your interest in joining the board or board committees / sub-committees (committees are great stepping stones to begin your board career, show your commitment and abilities, and gain experience before transitioning to the main board). Ask if there is any information that they may be able to provide to you to help your understanding of the business, and if there is any information that you can provide them in relation to joining the board/committee. The additional information about the organisation can be used as part of your own due diligence process prior to joining a board.
If appropriate, provide a letter of interest along with your board resume / CV to the Chair (of the Board or Nominations Committee). The letter should be concise and highlight some basic information as identified in point number one above. A letter of interest that I used when registering my interest in joining the board of West Beach Community Bendigo Bank can be viewed here (PDF).
Other times the organisation may have a formal process that is used for potential directors to register their interest (for example, filling in an online form via their website). The best thing for you to do is to use whichever process the organisation prefers and provide the information that they ask for in the requested format.
Undertake board and director-relevant education programs. Having these programs under your belt will make you more attractive to potential boards, will give you the skills, knowledge, and confidence to step into the role of director, and demonstrate your commitment to ongoing learning and development.
Boardroom Bootcamp is a wonderful course for new and aspiring company directors and board members to learn and develop the skills needed to thrive in the boardroom. Reading blogs, websites, and magazines designed for directors will also help expedite your understanding of what it means to be a company director.
Form meaningful relationships with the organisation (for example, through volunteering and/or attending key events), and with influencers who may be able to recommend you to boards or provide a personal reference to your goal board. If there is one thing that is clear, it’s that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” still exists today, particularly at the board level. Identify and approach influencers strategically and appropriately. This post here, and this one here gives you some great tips on how to connect effectively.
The director recruitment process takes time. Board opportunities may not open very regularly. And when they do, there are often numerous applications to sort through, an internal formal selection process to be followed, meetings may be held infrequently, and a sudden crisis may appear. Be patient with the process, and be prepared for a ‘no’. If that happens, go back to the top of this page and start the process over again.
I hope this provides you with a framework to proactively join a board of directors. Good luck on your directorship journey.