One of the first steps into applying for a board position is to review your board profile. Quite often when I speak to aspiring board members, the first thing they lament on is how difficult it is to even secure a board interview, despite countless of applications made.
Naturally, the first thing I’d ask is “Did you rewrite your resume from a board’s perspective?”.
Your board profile isn’t just an updated executive resume, where traditionally displays a chronology of your professional experiences and certifications. The purpose of a board profile is to showcase why you want to serve on the Board and what are the relevant contributions the Board can expect from you. You must be able to articulate what you bring to the table.
If you pay close attention to this tool, ( board profile ) and kept sharp, it can help to cut a path to securing a seat at the boardroom table.
Laying the foundations
If this is the first time you’re considering to serve on boards, perhaps laying some groundwork is useful, for instance doing some in-depth soul-searching on why you can and want to serve on boards and whether it fits with the bigger vision for your professional growth, helps to clarify your boardroom value.
Some of the best times to consider preparing to serve on boards is during your tenure at C-Suite levels, whether you’re a CFO, CCO, CHRO, these are great times to plan for future independent board roles. If you’re considering a board position while maintaining a full time job, some of these questions when answered honestly will help you evaluate your readiness to launch a search for a board role.
- At a pragmatic level, do I have time? Do I have a strong support system at work and home in placed to take on a board role?
- Can I make a long term commitment?
- Am I ready to take on an additional organisation’s responsibilities and obligations?
- Does my company’s leadership support my taking an outside board position?
You’re off to a great start when you’ve adequately considered and prepared for the board journey.
Be ready to have an honest and in depth discussion with your boss on your work commitment, the type of industries you’re allowed to gain board experiences at and the professional skills you’re looking to establish from the board experience that will bring a host of new benefits back to your current role.
Establish Your Why
To start framing your board profile, it’s helpful to have a deeper understanding of why a board role is enticing for you and what are your top two to three strengths that would be valuable in the boardroom.
Here are some questions to help you set the stage for your board profile:-
- Why do you want to serve on boards?
- What are your values and principles? What is non-negotiable for you?
- What areas of expertise or unique experiences that you can contribute to the board?
- What are some notable results that you’ve helped to achieve? What are you particularly proud of?
- What strengths have you developed that will help you be effective as a board member?
- How have you been formally recognised within your industry?
- In your current role, what can you do today to be a successful board member in the future?
I’ve often found it helpful to deep dive and answer these questions honestly as it reveals the type of organisations, industries and culture that would best align with your vision and principles. Getting this clear is important as you’re contributing your best life work at the board level and you want it to count.
Building a Board Profile
So, how do you start writing a Board profile that will get you selected for an Interview?
First off, know that your Board Profile is unlikely to remain static. ( your board profile will adjust according to who the reader is, the organisation they represent and what they’re looking for at the Board ).
Here’s some guideline structures :-
A powerful start to your profile, the introduction showcases your unique value proposition you will bring to the board.
It’s an executive summary ( or elevator pitch ) that describes your most recent board ( if any ) or executive experience, emphasising your unique strengths and areas of expertise, in particular abilities you will bring to the board.
You may also like to include sectors you can serve, industry networks and connections you are a part of, length of service in a particular leadership role that demonstrates board capabilities and corporate governance experience or knowledge.
I would recommend preparing this segment last, after you’ve covered the backbone in the board profile.
2. Share selected past roles and professional accomplishments
Provide a snapshot of relevant experiences applicable at Boards. Describe succinctly areas of expertise and skills that you’ve developed that supports your value proposition for the board. It’s advantageous to bear in mind that demonstrating entrepreneurial skills, strong interpersonal skills, ability to influence, governance and long term strategic skills are what boards looking for.
You may want to include leadership roles in industry associations or professional networks, speaking engagements in international conferences, social media influencer status, media interviews or research projects you’re involved in.
For the introverts out there, you may be reading this and think, gosh, I haven’t done public speaking, let alone media interviews or social media, what do I write? Well, think perhaps of presentations you may have done for internal group projects, presentation to the board or higher management or train your team and display some key attributes / accomplishments from those roles.
3. Include personal achievements
You might like to include volunteer efforts, leading sustainability projects or civic participation you are involved with eg mentoring youths, reading projects for underprivileged kids, raising funds for charity. You could possibly hold an adjunct professorship at a university, won some accolades / medals, wrote a best seller, run marathons, mountain climbing and the like, that you’d like to include here.
A well rounded person adds to the varying perspectives one could possibly contribute to board conversations.
4. List education and certification accomplishments
Information on education, post tertiary credentials and certifications attained matters.
Experience and knowledge of ESG ( Environment, Social and Governance) , digital transformation and technology are key credentialing that Boards favour.
In addition, if you do not have a finance background, a basic understanding of finance and how the numbers tell the story of what’s going on in the business, will certainly be an advantage.
5. Include a picture & contact details
When assessing candidates, Boards have indicated that they want to see their future board candidate’s photo to establish an initial connection. Hence, it’s advisable to have a professionally taken photo in colour and in corporate attire. It’s helpful if your pose shows a personable side of you, someone who would be enjoyable to spend time with and someone who is approachable.
Do include an email you check frequently and an easy to reach phone/mobile number.
There you go. A succinct guide to revamping your Board Profile as a first step towards your Board Journey. I hope you find these points a good start to self-review and advance your Board Profile. Much of these learnings have come through working with clients on their profile.
As with most things, it’s important to also remember just how tough the search can be to obtain a board position. Unlike job vacancies, board compositions do not change on an annual basis and most boards tend not to disrupt their board composition. In many cases, recruiters and board members tend to prefer experienced board members. That is not to say that first timers won’t get a chance to be nominated. After all every board member was once a first timer. Patience and perseverance are essential traits to be successful in a board appointment. It helps to have a long term perspective in pursuing your first board appointment.
I recall a client who came to me frustrated after 18 months of applying to many board vacancies and had no interviews. She sought my consultation to review her board profile. After taking suggestions to revamp her board profile, she felt more confident to submit her application to the next few vacancies. Shortly after, she received her first board interview and was appointed as an Independent Director of a Main Board Listed company.
Each client result differs depending on their experience, expertise and how they perform at interviews. We find that clients who are looking to shorten their path to board appointment and minimising trials and errors, are willing to work on their gaps and seek out our consultation. If you’d like to learn more about our Board Profile Review services, do check it out here.
Paddee Connexions works with extraordinary senior leaders, boards and founders who want to up level their life and business. They are fascinating, passionate and successful, yet whatever is coming next still feels like a really big leap. We help them make the tiny shifts that changes everything. Curious? Drop us a message for a quick non-obligatory call here.