Landing That First Corporate Board Seat!

July 2, 2009 at 4:55 pm

boardroom conceptWhile the turbulence in the business world continues and there is endless speculation about the presumed failure of many corporate boards, board service is still an excellent opportunity and learning experience than can enhance one’s skills, network and knowledge immensely.                                                    

So often I get asked to assist people looking to get on their first corporate board. These people are by and large qualified, experienced and credible yet for the most part they do not know how they can go about getting that very first board seat. While there are classes, boot camps and the like that profess to teach people how to achieve their goal of a director position, I have herewith summarized the key ideas that one needs to know in order to achieve that coveted goal:

 1-Be the best that you can be in your day job. Board Directors, by definition must have achieved some measure of success in their career before they will be considered “board-ready”. Therefore, the very best way to position oneself for board service is to focus on succeeding and accomplishing in your chosen career.

 2-Run a business. Operational experience the still most desired skill set on any board. This, however is closely followed by financial expertise and one’s willingness and qualification to sit on an audit committee. Fret not if neither of these are your background, for never before have boards been open to as varied backgrounds and experience as presently. There is, for example, and for obvious reasons great interest in risk expertise in the board room right now.

 3-Visibility is important. Being viewed as an expert in your field will put you on many radar screens. Speaking at conferences, publishing papers, books, articles, etc will raise your visibility and ultimately put you in the purview of those making board election decisions.

 4-Start small. Any governance experience is important. Start your director career with a non-profit board, leverage that into a private company and ultimately into a small public company. Don’t expect to start on a Fortune 500 board.

 5-Understand yourself and your motivation. Know what your skills are and importantly why you want to sit on a board. Understand the role of a director and know what is expected in the board room. I always ask potential directors why they want to sit on a board and what they think the role entails and at times I am disconcerted by the answers.

 6-Get to know the experts. The obvious people to be acquainted with are recruiters who specialize in boards of directors. But consider also, lawyers, CPA’s and other business advisors who are often called upon for trusted recommendations by a company CEO or Nominating and Governance Chair.

 Finally, do your homework. A Board Director has considerable responsibilities and obligations. Understand how a boardroom functions, how it should function, topical issues in corporate governance and finally, what qualities all exceptional directors must have.

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Ed Whitacre: Part 2 Say on what??


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