“CEOs are normally limited to serving on one outside board, so companies are casting a wider net,” says her co-author, Nancy Calderon, Global Lead Partner at KPMG LLP and board member of KPMG’s Global Delivery Centre in India.
The two have interviewed dozens of board chairpersons, nominating committee members, and other directors for their book. They came up with seven strategies for would-be directors to become attractive candidates for boards:
Meet what the market demands.“Understand the skills most valued by boards, and play these to their fullest,” says Calderon. She says experience as a CEO, CFO, or CPA is valuable, but it is also important to highlight technology experience. These include “hot button” board issues such as data security, and expertise in CAMs (cloud, analytics, mobility and/or social media).
Highlight ‘hot button’ board issues such as data security, and expertise in cloud, analytics, mobility and social media.
Highlight your global know-how. “Globalisation of customers, supply chains, and employees means that companies are seeking candidates who have a real comfort level and knowledge beyond domestic markets,” says Stautberg. Highlight any foreign languages you know, and emphasise experience you may have in other regions such as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) or in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
Build a more “board-able” CV “If you have gaps in your expertise, start taking on more projects at work that fill these in,” says Calderon. “Ask for a P&L responsibility, even for a smaller division, which will enhance the perception of you as bringing valuable ‘hard skills’ to boards for their various financial committees.”
If you have gaps in your expertise, start taking on more projects at work that fill these in. Ask for a P&L responsibility, even for a smaller division.
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Leverage a background outside the traditional C-suite. “Board candidates with increasing appeal are those who have served as president of a university, or who hold a relevant leadership position within the federal government, or who have worked as an entrepreneur in a related industry,” says Stautberg. “These types of people bring richness to a board, and these types of places are good recruiting grounds for directors.”
Become a visible industry leader. “Serve on association or government boards, speak at conferences, and write articles for high-profile industry publications,” says Stautberg. Nominating committees and search firms want industry leaders who both understand relevant market trends and have key contacts.
Find both mentors and sponsors.Mentors can brief you on how to get noticed for a board seat and how to understand a board's culture – these can help provide guidance and support. “But sponsors are the real key to closing the deal,” says Stautberg. “They are the ones who can influence board placement by being your champion with other directors they know.”
Start small. Calderon notes it usually takes more than two years to be selected as a board director, and the first one is the hardest. “Be realistic,” she states. “A Fortune 100 company isn’t likely to be your first board, unless you are the CEO of another Fortune 100 company. Small, for-profit companies and advisory boards are great starting places.”
The digital mindset
"Technology knowledge and a digital mindset are probably the most critical skills for directors in New Zealand and Australia" notes IT lawyer Jennie Vickers, on how these strategies can apply locally.
Read more: Doing business with Eve Maler of ForgeRock
As some directors increasingly struggle to grasp the impact of digital on strategy, opportunities will open, as those directors wisely step aside before they become the subject of governance failure litigation.
“As some directors increasingly struggle to grasp the impact of digital on strategy, opportunities will open, as those directors wisely step aside before they become the subject of governance failure litigation. The writing really is on the wall,” says Vickers, who is director of The International Association for Contract and Commercial Management, Australia and New Zealand.
Vickers says the “start small' advice is spot on, but cautions time management is important when doing this as helping not for profits “can also soak up your time”.
Read more: Apply data science with care: Gartner
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