Answers by Sheila Ronning
Founder & CEO, Women in the Boardroom
Leadership & Networking Expert and Board Strategist
Q: I think I’m interested in pursuing board service, but I don’t know where to start?
A: Congratulations on recognizing this opportunity, and in making the commitment to work for it. You will need to raise your game with strategic marketing, create board documents that showcase your board skills and profile, know what boards you are qualified for, be prepared for the board interview process and get up-to-date on the key issues around corporate governance. Check out our VIP I or II membership packages that address all of these and provide the support that you will need.
Q: Am I qualified for board service?
A: If you are a senior level executive and are in charge of a significant budget, oversee/manage a group of people and/or are part of making the final decision on strategy or investments for the company, check out our VIP I or II membership levels that will help you translate your background and reputation into a strategic plan for your candidacy as a board director.
Q: Do I have the right skill-sets for corporate board service?
A: This has changed dramatically over the last 5 years – especially within the last 2 years. Boards have expanded their search beyond financial experts. These are a few of other needed skill-sets: Technology, Risk Management, HR – Talent Management, M&A, Global experience, Sales & Marketing and Operations
Q: How long does it take to get on a corporate board and how much time will it take?
A: Experienced directors say it can take 3 to 5 years to get on your first board. They also point to the need for persistence and patience in pursuing this opportunity. You can achieve your goals with the right guidance. Check-ins and group calls are a service we provide to our members, to help keep them focused and motivated on their journey. Several of our members have gotten their seat at the table much faster than the 3 to 5 year average. You will have to do the work and you will have to be committed. If you are not willing to dedicate a minimum of 5 hours per month to the process, do not do it. You need to be in it for the long haul. There is no easy road to the boardroom. But we are here to help.
Q: What are the main benefits of serving on a corporate board?
A: I could speak all day about this! Individual motivations and benefits vary, but board service is an intellectually and financially rewarding experience. It builds leadership skills that translate directly to your professional career. It brings the satisfaction of helping corporate leadership provide better performance for their shareholders. It is a great way of expanding the reach of your extensive corporate skills. It helps extend your professional network. It is emotionally meaningful. And, this may surprise you – it is often described as fun. What you get out of corporate board service is generally in direct proportion to what you put into it. Read some of the testimonials of Women in the Boardroom’s corporate director members here.
Q: Do I need board documents – and what are they?
A: Yes you need them – and board documents are not the same as a resume/CV or the marketing bio on your website. Board documents highlight your background for board positioning and are needed to provide board search leaders insight into the value you could bring to their board. Our members who are corporate board directors tell us that board coaches are invaluable in helping create a board portfolio. Check out our elite board and executive coaches here.
Q: I know a lot of people and work with a recruiter – am I all set for a corporate board opportunity?
A: Networking is key to your first and/or subsequent board seat. It is great that you have an expansive network and know recruiters but it is crucial that you not only know who to reach out to but also when to reach out, what to say and how to maintain relationships. Less than 15% of board seats are filled by a search firm, so it is not wise to rely solely on them. Your networking needs to be strategic. Women in the Boardroom has a proven strategic networking process along with our Matchmaking Program™. Even though we are not a search firm, we are receiving more and more board seat openings that we open up to our VIP Members as part of our service. Explore VIP Membership here.
Q: What if I don’t have a network to reach out to for board seats?
A: I have worked with many women on realizing they do actually have a good base to connect to. Networking for your board seat does not mean that you need to attend events and meet 50 new people a month. You have a network and I am great at helping you figure out who those people are.
Q: Am I too young or what if this is something I aspire to do in 10 years?
A: It is never too early to start. It can take time to develop the skills, network and reputation required to land your first seat, so well done for planning ahead. There is no reason to delay starting your journey to the boardroom early in your career: understand that some boards may feel you need to acquire more proof of impact and leadership skills. If you know that board directorship is an ambition but maybe not something you want to commit to fully today, use this time to get smart on good corporate governance and strategic leadership with our Executive Development Program.