Joint collaboration between Randi Bussin and Dr. Marne Platt and Cindy Steiner

You’ve built a successful career over many years.  Perhaps you’ve been asked to speak at conferences, published articles, and mentored younger employees. Yet, there is one role that seems elusive — that of a Director on a corporate board. How can you locate the right board for you? In this posting, we’ll talk about the first two steps for your board search — self-reflection and networking/outreach.

  1. Why do you want to serve on a corporate board? There could be many reasons — money, the prestige, networking with highly successful executives, or an interest in a particular company. 
  1. What kind of board role do you seek? Not all boards are created equal. Some serve large companies, others medium-sized organizations, and still others start-ups. These different environments will compensate differently (or perhaps not at all). Also, consider the workload the board may require; this will vary, depending on the company and current board chair.
  1. What value can you add to a corporate board? Are you an expert at business strategy? Have a deep understanding of biotech development? A finance guru? Find a board that needs what you have.

According to Women in the Boardroom (WIB), an organization that helps women prepare board candidacy materials and network, many corporate boards seek professionals who have a background in a business model compatible with that of the board’s company. They also may seek members who have experience in a variety of business lifecycle stages (i.e., start up mode to exit strategy, etc.).

Finally, companies want members who will be hands-on, says Sheila Ronning, CEO and Founder of WIP and Deb Nelms, WIB board coach and Founder of Corporate BoardLink, Inc. Bench warmers need not apply.

  1. Are there any specific companies or industries that interest you? Review the company’s website, annual report, press releases and media coverage, etc. Talk with current board members or C-suite employees to see if you might be a fit.

Cindy Steiner’s client knew she wanted to serve on the board of a global travel company or travel agency, to supplement her income during retirement. She loves worldwide travel, especially to Europe. Karen did research on companies, and submitted letters and her CV along with an executive summary. Her self-reflection and careful approach to her board search has yielded several encouraging responses.

Finding a Position: Reflect, Network and Interviewguy-presenting-i

  1. Determine who is in your network: family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, your accountant, your lawyer, your dog-walker (whose sibling could be a CEO). Think outside the box.
  2. Then, prioritize your contacts by how well you know them and to what degree each may “go to bat for you.” For each high-priority contact, send an e-mail describing specifically what type of board you’d like to join (type of company, industry, etc.). Ask your contact if there is anyone in their network they can introduce you to. Most people get named to a board by knowing someone else on it, so use your network and let them know what you can offer.
  3. Conduct informational interviews with professionals and executives, to learn more about the boards at the companies that interest you.

In the next article, we’ll focus on marketing and training for corporate board roles.

Below is a list of resources for assistance in securing a board seat. Please note these are not endorsed by the authors.

Cindy Steiner, renowned international communications coach, and Dr. Marne Platt, an experienced leader in the pharmaceutical industry and published author, will be offering two upcoming workshops in Boston geared toward corporate women as they transition to new roles (first leadership role, move to CEO role or to a corporate board).

To learn more about these workshops or to register, visit  www.fundamentalcapabilities.com or www.steinerinternational.com