Most managers we are in contact with will at some point want to get started on their non-executive director career. Either to get on their first board of directors or move on to slightly higher levels.
The reasons may be different and there are many who think it’s fun to watch things grow and find a lot of personal satisfaction in going into smaller companies, where they can very quickly help achieve results that make a significant difference.
Others are driven by the desire to work more strategically, get good ideas, take the tough decisions without being “stuck” in operation. And again, others see it as a way to become manager on a higher level or that it is a way that you can work less and earn more, so you can focus on your golf swing.
If you are driven by the latter two factors, let me immediately recommend you to change strategy. A good non-executive director is not a leader but a consultant and sparring partner. And to think that one can get board positions that do not require work but pays really good money, well, let’s just say that it is rare.
But if you still want to strengthen your board career, here is a few tips, seen from a headhunters perspective.
Be clear on what you can bring to a non-executive board
As said, a good non-executive director, is a good consultant. One that due to his experience can guide the management of tactical and strategic decisions. And can use his og hers network and experience to strengthen a business and create results. It’s not quite enough to have a standard description of your management career or your normal CV. Focus on what you can contribute in a non-executive boardroom more than the daily management. It is not always quite the same.
Decide what type of business you can help
It is not certain that it is a company in the same industry you are in, that is the obvious choice for a non-executive board position. There may be conflicts of interest, etc. So be very clear on what types of companies and industries you have a special insight into, and can help. The more specific you are, the easier it is to match your skills with a specific need of the company.
The broader the profile, the more potential businesses, but hard to see why it’s really you to choose
Local / International
Also take into account the geography when you look into a non-executive board position. Many think that they will start locally and then later seek more internationally when they have the experience. But often it can be easier to get an international board position first, simply because more companies lack international people on their boards, and not necessarily having the network to find the obvious candidate.
Strengthen your skills
There are lots of non-executive board trainings and courses. Some are great, others not worth the money. I will not recommend some above others, but be careful when choosing what board trainings you choose to follow. Remember, it’s not a must to have taken a non-executive board course, but it’s really good to have and will greatly help you in the non-executive board, especially if you do not have extensive experience on boards of directors in advance. And remember: Taking a board course does not in itself make businesses stand in line with offers for board positions.
As with most things, it’s good to have a good network. There is still a very large proportion of non-executive board positions that will be filled through network. But more and more are being recruited more or less professionally through headhunters, and the like. Remember to be open about which board skills you have and that you’re open to the possibility. Also the types of boards you might be interested in, which brings us to the last point.
The very beginning
It is easier to get the good board positions if you have some non-executive board experience. A good way is to start in advisory boards or non-executive boards of small businesses. Often it is not paid, or very sparingly paid, but super to have on your CV. If you are open to this, and get the experience, it often opens up other opportunities. Many smaller companies do not necessarily choose the most qualified people, simply because they often don’t believe they can attract top talented non-executive directors. It is often not the case and even very experienced and talented people want to take their first board step in smaller companies, where you can really make a difference. And get some results on the CV.
I hope you have gotten some inspiration. We have a lot of talented candidates who are ready for new non-executive board challenges, ranging from the very small boards to the really heavy positions. If you want to hear more about the proces to find your next non-executive director, or if you want to make yourself available in our network, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or +45 7020 6400.