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Getting started on your board journey includes building a board profile. So, how does one go about it? It starts with asking yourself what your value proposition is, and what unique skills and experience you bring to a board.
What is your unique value proposition?
Boards are made up of a diversity of thought with members bringing different culture, experience, gender, ethnicity, age and geographic representation. So, what is it that you can bring to an already diverse board? What is your unique board value proposition?
Think of it like an “elevator pitch” where you have 10 seconds to tell someone what you bring to a board. In my case, I say that I have entrepreneurial and financial expertise with high growth and transformational companies in the technology, retail and consumer sectors.
What are you passionate about?
You need to pursue organizations that deal with what you are interested in or passionate about. For myself, I am passionate about dance. When I was asked to join Canada’s National Ballet School’s (NBS) Board, they asked me why was I interested in NBS, and I replied, “I always wanted to be a ballet dancer.”
Think about companies outside of your industry experience. It can be very rewarding to leverage your skills in a new industry with a whole new network and community to engage with. After spending over 20 years in the technology industry, I was asked to join a retail board, which made me excited because I love to shop. But, I am also a Canadian consumer so I understood that I could bring that perspective to the Board.
Get involved in your Alma Mater. Begin by serving on committees or councils to reconnect with your university and go back on campus. I started getting involved with Brock University by serving on the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Goodman School of Business, then on the President’s Advisory Council and was then asked to join the Board of Trustees.
Research the companies or industries that you are interested in.
Review their values, mission and strategy. Do they align with your own skills, experiences and values? Will you add value?
I always evaluate Board opportunities in three ways:
- How can I add value?
- Do I have a personal statement of the attributes I can bring to the board?
- How can I use my network to make meaningful connections to grow the business?
What is your personal statement?
A personal statement is like your own personal campaign. Recently, I was referred to a board opportunity and in the interview process I was asked to write about why I would make a difference and what makes me unique. So, I wrote my personal statement on what value I would bring to the board; why I was passionate about the business; and how I would bring a diversity of thought from my 30 years of diverse business experience with an open, creative and strategic way of thinking.
How are you connected to the company?
Joining a board is about fit and style, and the Board wants to make sure that your style will fit in. To help them decide, think about your network and how you might be connected to any one of the Board members. This is what I call “network mapping.” Use your network to map how you might be connected to members of the Board — the more connections you have to the Board the more comfort they can get on how you will fit in. Don’t be afraid to ask for introductions!
I shared my most recent board interview process with someone in my network. And without even asking, they made two great introductions for me to help advance my connection to the company. Some people are natural connectors. If you would like some tips, please my “Are you a connector?” blog post.
Building your Board profile is an ongoing process that takes time and takes focus. Good luck!
If you are interested in Getting Board-ready, please sign up for Women Get On Board workshops: http://womengetonboard.ca/workshops/
The purpose of the Getting Board-ready workshop series is to help women gain insights and learn about the skills they need to prepare for board opportunities. These half-day workshops will be facilitated by Corporate Directors, governance and search experts who will provide practical experience to empower women with tools to enhance confidence and courage to lead and serve on boards.