Ten Steps to Building a Board Portfolio | Part One
Aspiring company directors frequently ask me about what I did to gain my board positions. I’m always happy to share how I achieved my current board portfolio (“board portfolio” is a fancy way of saying that I sit on a lot of boards). In the attempt to help more aspiring board members than I can one-to-one, I am sharing those steps with you today. Actually I’m only sharing half – there are ten major steps in total. The other five I will share with you next week.
I understand that six boards is probably not your board career goal – at the moment. You know your capacity and the number of boards you are able and willing to join. And it may change in the future as you progress along your professional career. Nonetheless, the steps I am sharing will help you start your board career, whatever your aspirations are.
I set my intention very early in my career
The very first step that I took for my board career was setting my intention very early on in my professional career. Having this intention so early meant that all of my decisions – from the type of university degree I selected, to the posts I made on social media – all had a guiding “north star”. I strongly believe that having this mindset moved me towards starting my board career around ten to fifteen years earlier than I had expected.
It’s never too late to set your intention and have board goals. Write them down, use it as a guide when making decisions in your professional and personal life (there is no hiding with social media!).
I took “easy” board opportunities early
I have been involved in both triathlons and soccer clubs. I saw these clubs as “easy” opportunities to join their boards (or committees as they are often called – at the end of the day, it’s essentially the same thing). I say easy, not as a disparaging remark, but rather, sporting clubs are very often looking for new board/committee members to get involved, and it is usually quite easy (relative to boards of larger organisations) to get involved.
These boards will provide you with a great training ground and an appreciation for the role, duties, and responsibilities of company directors.
There is a range of community organisations that you can start your board career with, and I have compiled a list of suggestions here.
I had identified the kinds of organisations that I wanted to support and give back to
Knowing the causes and purposes that you want to support makes your board search and decision to join a board significantly easier. There are so many worthwhile organisations out there looking for awesome board members like you; knowing the causes closest to your heart makes your decision on where to “try your hand” easier, and – when you see how you play a part in making cool things happen for worthy people or animals – it makes your volunteer commitment feel so much more rewarding.
The bonus here is that most volunteer board positions are with organisations that do serve a cause larger than themselves and deliver positive outcomes to the community. It’s a win-win all-round I believe.
I actively sought out and never said no to opportunities to gain more hands-on experience
I have always said yes to opportunities, and figured out how to do whatever “it” was later on or as I went if I didn’t know how to at first. This is such a beneficial trait to adopt in your board and professional careers.
Since my first ever board commitment, I actively sought to involve myself with opportunities to broaden my experience and learning. These included taking on sub-committees roles (including committees that I had no expertise in – such as finance and audit – and chairing various sub-committees), and taking leadership positions (I put my hand up for the Vice President role at my triathlon club when I first joined that board). I also took on ‘portfolio’ roles (e.g. managing marketing and communications) on my soccer club board, which directly lead to me gaining the opportunity to join the board of my local Community Bank.
I can strongly recommend taking as many learning opportunities that you can once you join your first board. Practice at work by offering to chair internal committees (like a workplace health and safety committee). It’s great experience that will hold you in good stead in your board career.
I joined board registers
Board registers seem to be the best kept secret in the company director space; and they shouldn’t be. I joined one board register quite a while ago – so long ago I have forgotten how I learnt about its existence – and have achieved success from it. I regularly updated my profile as I gained more board experience and formal education, and the opportunity to join a national sporting board presented itself.
More and more board registers are joining the party, and I have compiled a list of six board registers that you should join today. Take the time to choose the one(s) that suit you, submit your profile, and be sure to set reminders to update it regularly (a rule of thumb I use is to update my register profile each time I significantly update my LinkedIn profile).
I hope these steps help you commence your board journey. Tune in next week for part two, where I share five more steps that I took to achieve my board portfolio.