Yes, we might as well admit it. We love Christmas!
And what better way to count down to Christmas, than with a virtual Christmas Calendar with a daily tip and insight from us to you.
We are regularly asked for tips and insight on many topics, but especially on building and accelerating a board career. So naturally we will have that as this year’s topic.
We will post the daily insight on our company page on Linkedin. So if you want to make sure you receive the insight of the day, please follow our company page.
Christmas Eve, we will draw one of our followers and offer an executive coaching session, focused on your board career path.
1st of December – Consider your motivation
The very first step towards a board position, is first to ensure you are motivated for the right reasons. We interview dedicated and skilled managers every week that are interested in landing their first board position or accelerate their board career.
However not all of them are truly aware of the requirements and restrictions a board position entails.
Board members oversee an organisation on behalf of owners, shareholders and stakeholders so you need to be comfortable in your role as a caretaker for the company’s wellbeing – you are acting in the interests of the company and not yourself. It’s also important to remember that a board member is an advisor to the management in the company. The board position is not a management position. So the skillset required is often more that as consultant rather than a manager.
2nd of December – Company Policy
One of the first tasks on your to-do-list should be getting to know your company’s policy on employees taking board roles.
What do the rules say? Are you allowed to fill a board position, and are there certain restrictions? How do you get it approved by HR? If there isn’t a protocol, then ask HR to develop one and perhaps help them.
3rd of December – Work, work, work, work
While serving on a board can do wonders for your CV, it is also demanding work. In most cases we are talking about a long-term commitment that can last up to 10 years. Depending on the company the expectations can be extensive, it is not just a couple of meetings a year. Quite often you are expected to physically attend six to eight meetings in a year. Joining in by a conference call often won’t do.
Considering some boards are international you need to take travel time into consideration. Are you at this point in your life able to juggle your family life and career, while having the time and effort it takes to fully commit to a board seat? If yes, then go for it with all you got. If not, then perhaps the timing is just off. Don’t give up just yet.
4th of December – How to market yourself
If you want a board position you must see yourself as a product and market yourself. You want to be seen as a thought-leading within your chosen field.
Create your own personal branding strategy which entails how you can promote your expertise. Seek out speaking and writing opportunities and use each one to prove your strengths, demonstrating how you can use your capabilities and board-level character strengths. It can also be public speaking or panel discussions.
Share your insights on social media platforms. There is a good chance that your name will be typed into Google or another search engine by the hiring organisation, search consultant or nominating committee.
5th of December – Be willing to start small
There are plenty of rewarding opportunities outside of public company board seats. One way to go is to start in an advisory board or non-executive boards of small businesses. More than often you don’t get paid or at least very sparingly paid, but it will build up your experience and enable you to network with other leaders.
You can also volunteer to serve on a non-profit board for which you have a passion such as a local school, sports club or trade association.
6th of December – Givers Gain
As you might have figured out, one of the essential components for securing a board position is your ability to network and do it well.
By attending local and regional industry events, you can make new connections. Always remember to follow up on your newly acquainted. Subtly mention your board ambitions. But remember networking isn’t only about receiving, it is as much about giving. Use your resources to help those who might be able to help you in your endeavour to landing a board seat.
There are also other ways of gaining new connections; you can join LinkedIn groups or other social groups. There is also the possibility of joining professional networks, where the sole focus is on interactions and relationships of a business nature.
7th of December – Social Media
Moreover, as networking is key to obtaining a board seat, you will inevitably be researched by the new connections you have made, particularly on sites such as LinkedIn or other professional networking websites. Therefore, when making sure that you are presenting yourself as an ideal candidate, your LinkedIn and other social media profiles should not be neglected.
8th of December – How many know about your aspirations?
Reach out to your network – make them aware of your position. Perhaps send your CV and your pitch. That way if someone in your network hears about a board seat, they can redirect the news your way. In many cases, the ratio between roles and candidates isn’t to your advantage, and often the choice is based on recommendations. If you get recommended, you are already a step ahead of the rest of the candidate field.
9th of December – Your Board CV
When compiling your CV for board positions you need to be able to distinguish between what would be relevant to your professional career CV and what would be relevant from a board’s perspective. In your board CV, you want to highlight the skillset you have that are of direct use in the board. So, your management skills, your hands-on approach etc. that are often very relevant in your regular CV, are less important in your board CV.
Rather focus on your ability to be a trusted advisor, a broad insight into the core of a company in general, as well as the specific competencies you have that you feel you can contribute with for that board role.
In a board position you get involved in the entire company. From Finance to Operations, to Commercial and Legal etc. Make sure your board CV is not too focused on just your commercial background or similar, but that you have a broad experience, and highlight where you have gotten those competencies from.
10th of December – No previous board experiences?
Every journey starts with a single step. And if you have no previous board experience, then you must focus on your transferable experiences from your past career, that you can put into play in a board position. Board skill-sets should be apparent throughout your CV. Even if you don’t yet hold a board position, think of other situations and positions you’ve held where you have demonstrated your ability to encourage, question or steer, but you have not effectively ‘owned’ or executed the activity.
Remember also what you have done besides your regular career. Have you been on boards in a sports club, kindergarten or similar, then use some of the experiences from there, if you haven’t entirely gotten the experiences needed for you board seat in your current or previous jobs. And when describing your competencies from your regular job, be sure to explain it, so the terms and wording match the words usually used in board position.
11th of December – Know your target audience
With any form of communication, it is essential to understand your recipient and how you should communicate with them. You need to use the right wording in your resume. You should avoid using any language that could suggest you singlehandedly accomplished results. Try to use words that indicate being good at playing with other – “collaboration”, “dialogue” and “group decisions”.
Boards are a collective. Being able to show yourself as a team player who can play the collective team through compromise, teamwork and persuasion will go a long way. Find examples of where you succeeded in leading and working together with your co-workers instead of managing your team.
In addition to this, avoid using industry jargon and acronyms as the recruiter or hiring committee might not know your industry or sector.
12th of December – Consulting
Just remember that a board position is not a management position. Your previous management experience can be relevant on a board because it might have given you a broader insight into all aspects of a company, as well as being used to think strategically and undertake responsibility.
But the people management part is not relevant in a board, and in reality, it is more relevant to see a board position as a consultant role rather than a management role.
You are there to advise (and oversee) the management of the company. But you are not there to participate in the daily management of the company.
14th of December – Executive Search – The dreaded headhunters!
There are still many board positions that are placed through networking. But it is becoming increasingly more common for boards to use Executive Search firms when filling out an empty seat. Now if you already have a strong network, that can put you in front for a board position, then it’s not necessarily an advantage that Executive Search is getting more and more used for board positions.
However, in most cases, it is a clear benefit, because of we as Executive Search consultants look much more for the skill set and personal fit, rather than the network relation. And you can always ask us for advice on how you can improve your profile to be more relevant for a board position. As an executive search firm, we love to discover new talent and have a chat.
Look through your CV, if yours signals that you are a great consultant rather than a strong leader. It can often help you in the right direction.
15th of December – Remember to listen
When you get an interview – don’t spend the first part of the interview talking about yourself or your achievement, or even how you will contribute to the board with your experience. Begin by listening to what skills the board is looking for, what kind of experience and knowledge should the next board member have.
You need to get a feel for the organisation and its board, what are their needs? Is the company in the midst of a transformation? At what stage of the development are they? By then you can begin to position yourself as someone who can step in right away and help the change.
16th of December – Do your homework
As with any job, it always pays to do your research before you apply. Not only concerning sending a targeted CV and application, but also to make sure you know what you are getting into. Look up boards and target the ones that meet your expectations regarding the board makeup, their values and the amount of time you have to put in.
There is also another reason to do extensive research. If you do, you won’t be surprised by any red flags such as infractions, staff turnover or other issues at your target company.
17th of December – A strong summary
One of the first time your reader will lay eyes on when reading your board CV is your summary. Your summary is supposed to enable the recruiter or hiring committee to quickly find the strategic value you can add to the board. The summary might be the only thing people read, so it should be between 150 and 200 words long. Try to avoid long sentences filled with descriptions and keep your language objective. Keep it in either first or third person. Otherwise, it will seem confusing. Try reading it out loud; your profile should sound natural and be easy to read.
It should be a match between you and job specifications. If there isn’t a job description, then focus on your core transferable skills. They are the skills you have used in your career which can be adapted to board roles, not purely technical skill set, but assets you have gained through experience. It could be strategy, financial/budget, regulation, innovation. Your transferable skills should be evident not only in summary but throughout the CV.
18th of December – Board education
The board education industry is booming! From the quick introduction courses in an afternoon to the full MBA school board education that could take weeks and months. The quality of the different courses and programs is very diverse. It is not our place to recommend some over others, but we do however have a few questions for you to consider before you enrol:
Be sure of your reasons. Is it because you want to learn new skills and insight into board work? Or is it because you think it is easier to get a board position if you have a formal education?
There are very few examples supporting the second notion. On the other hand, if the course is on a senior level, you might g a network with other people, which could be relevant in your board search. But the most important reason to take any course or program in board work is to improve your skills and insight.
Do you already have some board experience, or are you a beginner?
If you already have some board experience, then most of the shorter/lower level board courses are often irrelevant. You will already have most of the knowledge, and you will not gain any further advantage in obtaining new board positions. If you are a beginner at board work, then you might get some valuable insight and knowledge, from the shorter courses, but it will probably not make a difference in your chances of getting a board position.
The more extended programs from esteemed MBA schools etc. can in both cases give you strong knowledge and insight. Not necessarily a fast track to getting a board position, but most likely valuable from a knowledge perspective.
19th of December – What should you focus on in your CV?
Boards select their board members based on capabilities and character. While what a board is looking for differs from one position to another, we can tell you that the following character traits are essential for a non-executive director position.
Being trustworthy – the job is about taking responsibility and acting as a fiduciary for a business or organisation. The board will want to believe your capabilities even when things get rough.
In continuation of this is leadership skills – making the hard choices and taking on responsibilities. However, remember a board seat is not a management role. You are there to support the management, not be part of it.
Another ability is diplomacy – as we have mentioned earlier boards are a collective. You have to form and maintain good relationships with the rest of the board members. So, you need to be able to play on the collective team – using persuasion, teamwork and compromise. Also connected to this is your interpersonal skills – you need to showcase your abilities. Are you a good public speaker or perhaps networker?
An analytical mindset is also highly appreciated – perhaps by location new business opportunities by analysing data and using it as a basis for business decisions.
Find examples of the above-mentioned throughout your career and demonstrate your abilities as a consultant and your advisory skills.
21st of December – The usual suspects
In many companies, especially smaller companies, the usual suspects in the boardroom are the lawyer, the accountant, sales director and sometimes also a CEO of another company.
For smaller companies, it can be beneficiary to have a lawyer and an accountant on the board. This way they can ensure that all is done within the rules and regulations, as well as having a professional advisor that knows the company for financial and legal questions etc. Whereas if the company needs commercial development, a CEO or a sales director might also have a unique insight.
It’s much rarer to see the HR professional, procurement, logistics etc. in the boardroom. But in many cases, this type of diversity could be a tremendous asset in the boardroom. If you have a less traditional background for board positions, don’t hesitate to put yourself forward. As we mentioned yesterday, boards are increasingly open to new types of expertise.
Use some of the tips from the previous board tips and insights on how to position yourself. You may have to be even sharper and concise than the usual suspects. So it might be harder for you, but it is in no way impossible for you to land a board seat!
22nd of December – The chairman role, should I go for that?
In most cases, your first board position will not be the chairman role. But with a little bit of experience from board work, this might be an option for you. But is it the right step to take? First of all, it’s important to acknowledge, that the workload is vastly increased. There are a lot more meetings and in most cases discussions with the CEO on a regular base. This also means that it is expected that you can dedicate much more time and effort into the board work than with a regular board position. The remuneration is usually also higher for the chairman role, but compared to the hours spent, then the hourly rate is often lower. Worth considering -it often also excludes you from taking on more board positions due to lack of time. That said, the can be much more development in the chairman role, and a lot more hands on strategy work. But remember still: You are there to represent the owners, and assist the CEO.
23rd of December: How do I get rich on board work?
Well, you buy a lottery ticket every time you go to a board meeting. The chances of getting rich because of your board work are about the same as hitting the jackpot. The truth is that the majority of boards in small and midsized companies are not that extravagantly remunerated. In some cases, part of your remuneration would be the right to obtain a smaller share of the company, and that can have a considerable upside if all goes well. But otherwise, considering the time and effort you spend on the board, you could probably earn more in putting the same effort into a regular career job. Naturally, there are high-level boards in large listed companies, where the remuneration is quite good. However, you can also expect an increased workload. But to be chosen for a board seat of this calibre, the seniority of your profile would also indicate that your regular salary is pretty good. In any case, you would be in a similar position. Your regular career is more profitable than a board seat. So, the conclusion is: board positions can be extremely challenging, exciting and developing. You can be reasonably rewarded for your effort, but in most cases, you shouldn’t go for a board position for the money.
24th of December – Be patient, if it was easy, everyone would do it
Landing a board seat can be quite a laborious and long process, sometimes taking two to three years. Even with a targeted plan and an extensive network, you’ll still have to wait for the right match between you and the board position. But to give you a course of action, we’ve tried to sum up the essentials: Make sure you know your goals and motivation – it shouldn’t be the money tempting you. A board position can be a commitment of 10 years. But it’s worth it both in terms of experience and network. Compose a separate CV only for your board position search. Your transferable skills and achievements should be front and center throughout your CV. Shout it from the rooftops and let people know of your aspirations. Build your network by attending local and regional events. Remember to be visible online – seek out opportunities for showcasing your knowledge. Public speaking, blogs and panel discussion. Update your social media profiles, you will undoubtedly be googled by the hiring committee or recruitment agency. And last but not least – reach out to those dreaded headhunters, we love to unearth new talent and have a chat.