So you’ve decided you want a seat on a corporate board. Now what?
Women in Retail Leadership Circle’s latest webinar, “Getting Board Ready: The Secrets to Landing a Board Seat and Being a Great Director,” is on-demand now. The virtual event outlined all of the steps to take once you’ve made it a goal to get that board seat.
The webinar featured a presentation from Kelly McNamara Corley, founder and principal of the The Red Bee Group, a consulting firm that helps organizations develop sustainable diversity and inclusion, board governance, and organizational excellence initiatives.
“The board has an obligation and responsibility to act in the best interest of the company and also with care, which means that you have to be prepared, you have to be knowledgeable, you have to have skills, and you have to do work to demonstrate that you’ve actually lived up to your set of responsibilities as a director,” McNamara Corley said.
Here are five tips from Women in Retail Leadership Circle’s webinar on board readiness to put into practice to help you achieve that career goal:
1. Know what you’re getting yourself into.
Board service requires a lot of work, both while preparing to apply for a seat and once you’re actually named a board member. McNamara Corley said board members are expected to spend at least one-and-a-half to two days in board meetings in addition to committee meetings, ad-hoc meetings and strategic planning sessions. You’re also expected to read the lengthy board books, weigh in when there’s a company crisis, and generally support and represent the company when in public. Expect at least 250 hours of work annually as a board member.
“Once you join a board, you really can’t dissociate yourself with that board when a crisis hits,” McNamara Corley said. “What you cannot have is a board that runs for the hills when a crisis hits.”
2. Know what the board is looking for.
Boards usually strive to be comprised of a diverse set of skills and perspectives. “It’s an opportunity to create a collective body that together will bring their best thinking to the different [board] functions,” McNamara Corley said. Organizations are usually looking for people who have prior board experience, held leadership positions, worked in a variety of roles, have good judgement and intellectual agility, and are comfortable dealing with complex, unfamiliar environments, according to McNamara Corley.
3. Position your experience so it’s relevant to board service.
Rather than copying and pasting the same resume you’d use when applying to jobs, McNamara Corley recommends starting with a blank page and asking yourself how your experience is relevant to board service. “You want to think about times that you’ve had to provide oversight, that you’ve been involved internally in strategy,” she said. McNamara Corley recommends thinking about your experience in career segments, not outlining it chronologically like you would a resume.
4. Elevate your profile.
McNamara Corley recommends examining what organizations and activities you’re a part of before applying for board membership. Perhaps you can take on a leadership position within those organizations, or speak on panels or publish writing on a topic that focuses on your skills. “Can you get out and about and have people start to recognize your name as an expert in a particular area?” McNamara Corley posed.
5. Activate your network.
Once you’re ready to be on a board, you have to make connections because board positions aren’t publicly posted like most jobs are. McNamara Corley recommends thinking about your network broadly — that obviously includes your current CEO and colleagues, but it can also include groups of people you normally wouldn’t consider when it comes to networking, like your book club or your kids’ teachers. “You may only have one chance to have conversations with people, and you want to be really well prepared because you never know where those conversations will go,” said McNamara Corley.