“What is the #1 reason your members do not have success with your program?”
This was a question recently asked of me by a prospective member, and it was a excellent question at that. My answer to her was, “Because they don’t do the work.” I also added, “It takes more than a credit card to get you on a corporate board. You cannot just join an organization and expect to be handed a seat at the table because you paid the membership fee. When you join WIB, not only do you have access to our expertise but a roadmap that guides you to a corporate board seat. Our program works differently for everyone and depends on individual needs and wants. So think of it this way, you are the driver and we are your GPS.”
Her question prompted me to recall a few things I have heard over the years – they really are excuses and are either being told to me or to themselves. They can be, and are, debilitating. My hope is that sharing these will help those who can relate to push forward.
1. I’m not sure I’m qualified to be on a board.
If you are in charge of a significant budget, oversee or manage a group of people, or are part of making the final decision on strategy or investments for the company, then you are a senior-level executive and qualified to be on a board. Of course, each board will have their own specifications when looking for the right director but women who’ve met this level in their career should feel more secure and confident that they are sought after as board candidates.
2. I don’t have a network.
I am no stranger to hearing the concerns of women trying to navigate their network with the intention of becoming a corporate board member. The good news is that I am ALWAYS able to help! Defining your value add for board service and clearly articulating it to your network is the best chance of getting your seat at the table but this can consume a lot of time and leave you frustrated – signs you are not working your network correctly. Thankfully, we’ve created a networking process at Women in the Boardroom that helps you figure out who the key people are in your network to reach out to, how to contact your network, what to say and what NOT to say, and how to maintain those relationships. Our process works and our success rate at helping members secure board seats is proof!
3. I’m too busy.
Everyone has responsibilities. Everyone is busy. But people make time to prioritize the things that they really want. If you do not have time for the things that will help you get onto a board, you will likely struggle to manage the responsibilities of being a director.
4. It’s still the “old boys club”.
The boardroom is commonly viewed as a ‘men’s club’. Not only are most, if not all, of the people around the table men, but so are many of the influencers and connectors to director positions on that board. Look… you’re not a man so dwelling on the fact that you would have more opportunities if you were is pointless. Instead, use your valuable time and energy to let the ‘men’s club’ know you are interested in corporate board service. You may find that plenty of men are interested in helping you on your board journey.
5. I am in a unique situation so I think it is going to be really hard for me to get on a board.
The “unique situations” I’ve heard include where they live, whether the industry they are in is male dominated or doesn’t have high board turnover, or the company they work for doesn’t allow them to be on corporate boards. I wish I could tell you how many times I have heard from women that their situation is preventing them from getting on a corporate board. I keep waiting for someone to actually give me a unique one that will stump me.
If any of these excuses sound familiar to you, it’s time to embolden yourself instead of letting the narrative of excuses and simplified reasoning dictate what you can accomplish. There are several things you can do to help yourself in getting a seat at the boardroom table. Now is the time to take action. No more excuses.
1. Know your value.
You must stop holding yourself back. Chances are that if you are ready to undertake board service, you believe that you would be a value-add to a company. Trust that instinct and do not sell yourself short when the opportunity arises to apply for positions – especially for folks with several years of experience in the C-suite or other prominent executive positions. Know what you are worth to a company seeking board members.
2. Break up the status quo.
If you have been on the hunt for a board seat for a while, it might be time to shake things up. Patience is not always the best method, and you may have to go outside of your comfort zone to advance into to the boardroom. Stop doing things the way they’ve always been done. Try something new. Be bolder.
3. Have a clear understanding of what board service entails.
There is real value in knowing what it takes to be an effective member on a board. For example, you need to be comfortable reading and understanding financial statements or knowing what the different committees are and what they do. You must spend time preparing for meetings and reading the board packet.
Once you comprehend the roles, obligations, duties, and time commitment that board directors face, then make an informed decision to move forward with a board position that is right for you.
4. Excel at what you do.
It is important that you not only demonstrate that you have held leadership roles, but that you have a proven track record of success. Having a clear progression of increasing responsibility throughout your career is helpful. As you continue to build your experience, take note of your accomplishments and achievements and the impact they’ve had. Additionally, when it comes to getting a board seat, general business leadership is a great start and baseline expectation. However, specializing in a needed field like technology or cybersecurity makes you an even greater asset to corporate boards.
5. Be known as an expert.
This is a solid action that goes a long way in achieving board service and builds up your professional reputation. Having a well-known and respected voice in your industry implies expertise and identifies you as a qualified leader in the space, making you more established in the right communities. Do not be afraid to let people know what you know.
6. Let people know you are interested.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Your network wants to help you but you need to help them help you. Do not assume your network knows that you are looking to serve on a corporate board. Share your board goal with them.
7. Network at every opportunity.
This is the most important step. With search firms filling less than 15% of corporate board seats, networking is crucial. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for your 1st, 2nd or 3rd board seat, you have to network. Knowing who in your network to reach out to, how and when to reach out to them, and what to say is vital. Timing is also key and is a big component in maintaining these relationships. But don’t think that it is only the people in your current network that you should be reaching out to because we all have people in our network that we need to re-engage with. Working your own network using our proven networking process will always give you the biggest ROI in landing your board seat.