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Word on the street is that you want to serve on a board. Excellent! I can’t wait to learn more. So, let’s start with a question: why?
It’s an important question to kick off this conversation with – because a decision to seek a board appointment should not be driven only by self-interest.
The benefits of board service can be considerable, however it’s important to remember that board service is primarily about service – to others.
You can obtain considerable benefits from a board appointment – which I’ll talk about in a moment – however to make the most from your board service it’s best to adopt a mental position that these benefits are a welcome bonus, rather than a guaranteed right.
Should You Serve On A Board?
I know what you’re thinking. You already have a full time+ job. You’re crazy busy with your work, your family/pet/partner and whatever little free time you can manage to squeeze out of your week for fun, hobbies and relaxation.
If you consider the meetings, the retreats, the conferences .. is serving on a board actually worth your life energy? If you want to become a CEO, turns out it is.
(Related Article: What Is Transformational Leadership?)
A recent study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that serving on a board increases an executive’s likelihood of being promoted as a first-time CEO to an S&P 1500 firm by 44%.
And even if they weren’t promoted, the research revealed that serving boosts an executive’s subsequent annual pay by 13%.
Impressive results. But why is board service so valuable? Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights:
1. Improved Leadership Skills.
Whether you decide to join a corporate board or a non-profit, board service will give you the opportunity to collaborate with other leaders in action.
You will witness first-hand how their CEO makes decisions.
You’ll learn how this corporation budgets, forecasts and conducts their strategic planning.
And you’ll be able to bring your unique “why” to their efforts, all while observing and partnering with talented, seasoned executives who have knowledge and experiences that are distinct from your own.
Board service is a veritable leadership academy.
(Related Article: Transformational Leadership: The Ultimate Guide).
Best of all, it’s the kind of real-world education and knowledge sharing that isn’t possible at your own employer. The outsider perspective kicks you out of your current comfort zone into a whole new universe of possibilities. Not to mention, opportunities.
2. Sharpened Communication Skills.
Being part of a board gives you endless chances to present your ideas to small, and larger, groups.
You will be required to persuade on the fly in a realm that is unfamiliar to your heart and head. If you think you’re a stellar communicator now, just wait.
This skill can’t be emphasised enough if you truly want to lead a corporation to success someday. Be ready to speak an entirely new language.
3. Increased Authority And Credibility.
Stepping out of your comfort zone reframes how people see you. Suddenly, you’re not just an (insert your field here) executive from XX Company.
A different corporation’s top leaders from another industry are endorsing you. And new people with networks you previously weren’t privy to are taking notice of your contributions.
Your personal brand shifts from unknown or subject matter expert, to one of passionate giver with an increased scope of influence—all with the goods to back it up.
So, while your board appointment will involve intense service to others, what goes around comes around – if you get my drift.
Thanks to your service, gems such as lasting mentor relationships and creative ideas for your own business will likely pop up, versus you having to go seek them out in a vacuum.
4. Personal Fulfillment.
Depending on where you choose to serve, your work will have the side effect of helping people. Or animals. Or the environment. Or .. you name it.
This outcome tugs heavily at your “why”.
When you’re looking for board opportunities, think deeply about what you want from the experience and make sure it links to your utmost passions—especially since not all board positions are compensated.
Make sure it aligns with your personal brand vision, moving it forward versus being at odds with what you stand for.
You might find that, unlike Gordon Gekko, the joy of helping others in unexpected ways could fuel your own enthusiasm for your work.
And just might be the booster shot your background needs to uncover that CEO role you’re been dreaming about.
5. Larger Network.
Thus far we’ve determined that a board role offers:
- Increased exposure to new leaders
- Creative business ideas
- Mentor opportunities
- The chance to hone your voice
- The satisfaction of giving back
- Potential career opportunities
It’s like all of the benefits of board service we’ve already covered fit together into an ideal networking strategy.
I Love It When That Happens.
And just like the long-term advantages of selfless service, networking is an ongoing circular affair.
Let me explain.
Taking on a board role will increase your network powerfully, and perhaps exponentially.
However, here’s the rub: landing a board role will require you to work your current network, hence the circular nature of the task.
So, from where you’re sitting today, how can you obtain a board role? Ensure these fundamentals are in place and all convey your “why”:
Do you have a professional headshot that reflects your personal essence versus making you appear like every other corporate executive out there? If not, get one.
2. Bio And Resume.
Do you have a recent and professionally written resume? If not, get one.
3. LinkedIn Profile.
How’s your LinkedIn profile these days? If it’s outdated and doesn’t feature the above-mentioned items in their most current and effective state, it’s time to hit the reset button.
4. Personal Website.
If you don’t already have one, seriously consider a personal website. It’s an ideal forum for you to tout your subject matter expertise while sharing your passions behind and beyond it.
Caveat: get your other basics in place first. Then tackle this one, as they will help shape your site.
Once your personal brand is top notch, start talking to, and meeting, the right people.
In that spirit, remember this Bob Dylan lyric from his gospel period:
“Everybody’s gotta serve somebody.”