I am a great proponent of joining a Board and bringing a unique set of eyes and experience to the table. When in conversation with people who are not feeling 100% confident about joining a Board, I ask them to talk about the underlying uncertainty.
For people on leadership paths, uncertainty around joining a Board is rarely about feeling ill-prepared as the vast majority have already completed governance training. The issues go deeper:
We have all had colleagues share their Board stories, and it’s fair to say some of the stories serve as cautionary tales.
The top three concerns people share with me about joining a Board are the risk of:
The top three drivers for joining Boards shared in my circles are:
Once you are clear on some of the possible pitfalls and benefits of being on the Board you are considering joining, make a time to meet with the Chair. Prior to the meeting, take time to frame the questions you have for the Chair to address your concerns:
Can you talk me through the: vision and strategic direction; governance framework; board/executive engagement; decision-making framework; board culture; top 3 strengths of this board and top 3 areas for development of this board?
This forms part of your due diligence. Use this opportunity to take deeper dives so you can fully understand the landscape of this organisations and its governance. Don't be concerned about taking up too much of the Chair's time. Time spent in this discovery stage pays dividends. If you decide to go ahead with your application, this exploratory time will leave you better prepared for Board interview. In the event that your meeting with the Chair confirms some of your concerns, the time spent in the pre-application process was beneficial in your decision-making and risk assessment process.
If your concern about joining a Board is how much value you can add, it can be helpful to unpack this uncertainty.
My suggestion again, is to arrange to meet with the Chair.
Having the conversation can often allay concerns about the value you bring to the table. Heikki Vaananen, CEO and founder of HappyOrNot expands further on the benefits of sitting on Boards in his article in Forbes
Once you are clear on the skills, experience and values the Board is seeking, it is worth mapping these across your own profile to locate the synergies. Of course a perfect match does not mean a match made in heaven, but it can allay concerns about how much value you can add to the Board. This process also assists you in your capacity to articulate the benefits yours lens will add to the Board.
For those who are holding back from taking on Board positions, my suggestion is to do your due diligence, meet with the Chair, gather formal and informal intel. Once you can tick the boxes that matter to you - step up and take your seat at the Board table.