Yes, You Do Have Something to Offer a Board
This post has been on my mind for some time now as I feel it addresses an important need for aspiring board members.
I have heard so often lately that many bright, capable, high-performing people feel that they have nothing to offer a board.
I agree, that it’s hard to know what value you can bring to a board when you have never been on a board before and you don’t know what they’re looking for. It’s also super awkward to talk so favourably about ourselves.
However, the boardroom is not that mysterious (spoiler alert!) and being a high-functioning, well-contributing director is within many people’s potential. Boards have done a good job at making themselves appear as though they are secret clubs reserved only for people with certain special skills and abilities. This serves only to keep specific people in power positions and keep high-potential candidates discouraged and afraid to put themselves forward for a board opportunity.
This disappoints me because the people who are disadvantaged at the end of the day are us – the communities in which these organisations serve.
Nonetheless, it’s time to break out of this negative thinking and break into the boardroom.
Let’s start by looking at discovering your key strengths and attributes and defining exactly what you have to offer a board.
A note before we start; consider what you have to offer as not just being about your raw skills and talents, but also in key relationships and/or networks that you have.
Additionally, consider your skills and attributes within the context of how they contribute to the strategic, business, and financial outcomes of a business. This is what most boards look for from candidates. It’s likely that what you’re doing at work is contributing to these outcomes, but you don’t quite understand or know how to articulate them. I suggest watching this TED talk to better understand this concept.
Take some time to answer the following seven questions to start pulling together your list of key skills and attributes that you can bring to a board:
1. What do I inherently know that I am good at?
2. What projects or assignments am I asked to work on?
3. What subjects / areas / topics do people ask for my advice on?
4. What am I good at, that also excites / interests me?
5. What are the significant professional/work achievements that I have made to this point in my career?
6. How have I made a significant impact to the organisation and its achievement of strategic goals?
7. Who is a trusted advisor I can ask what they observe as my key strengths and attributes?
Working through this list takes some self awareness and openness to feedback from trusted friends, colleagues, mentors, managers, and current board members. Yes it’s uncomfortable, but it’s so worth it. I encourage you to take the time to understand where you are at in relation to your board readiness and what you can bring to a board.
You can earn yourself some bonus points if you go a step further and undertake some board preparation, such as a governance or directorship course (like Boardroom Bootcamp) to demonstrate your board awareness and directorship readiness.
You may find yourself ready to jump in with both feet, or you may find yourself at a point with a little more work to do before you feel comfortable with exploring board opportunities. This is fine. With the right work, the right time will come.