On why now is a great time to seek board membership:
So, female and male readers, listen up. While corporate board seats are scarce, competition is fierce, and director turnover is low, here’s something to celebrate: Unlike the past when boards often interviewed just one person who they knew, many boards are now interviewing several candidates. This means, according to the Spencer Stuart U.S. Board Index 2014, more first-time directors—39 percent of newly seated directors are serving for the first time—and people with different experience, are being invited to the process. And the 2014 National Association of Public Company Governance Survey confirms that 23 percent of all new directors are division/subsidiary presidents and other line and functional leaders. This is almost double their representation a decade ago.
So you don’t have to sit passively just wishing and hoping. You can take action. In fact, the “right” initiatives can immeasurably increase your odds of landing a seat. (This book is full of examples of folks who have done just that!)
In interviewing sitting board directors for this book, I invariably asked each of them, “How did you get your first corporate board seat?” In tallying their answers, this common formula emerged:
Passionate Expertise + Fearless Work + Visibility + Recognition = Opportunity
Many directors identified their passions—that is, what energized them—early in their careers and what they were really, really good at doing. Then they persisted in fearlessly doing their work in visible places over many years, even decades. In time, they became branded by their skills and were recognized for their achievements.
On why preparation and knowledge are critical:
When you receive an invitation to interview for a seat on a corporate board, it’s a significant milestone. It means you’ve made it to the candidate “short list” and the board wants to know more about you. You’ll also want to know more about them, and I’ll show you ways to prepare for the interview. But first things first. Ask yourself whether you even want to be interviewed. Some of the deeper research you’ll do to prepare is not something to undertake unless you accept the invitation because it could be time wasted.
This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. To ace these conversations, it’s important that you bring your “director” persona to these interviews. That’s far different from speaking in the capacity of your more familiar persona as a senior executive or subject matter expert. Instead, this conversation is an exchange about your abilities to work as a member of a team that oversees the workings of the corporation at its highest levels.
And remember to empower yourself with this knowledge: As the board members are evaluating you, you are vetting them too! This is a two-way street.