How can you get appointed to a board if you’re not a household name? The simple answer is to bring something the board wants but doesn’t have, according to authors John T. Montford and Joseph Daniel McCool and in their new book, Board Games. Our former corporate guy Lance Avery Morgan caught up with them to get the inside skinny with an excerpt from their book on giving back by serving on a board that makes a difference in the world…
“How can I get appointed to a board?” It’s a question we are asked frequently by up-and-coming, high-performing professional men and women and just as often by established, long-tenured leaders and chief executives who view an appointment to a corporate board of directors as the pinnacle, defining achievement of their careers.
Getting the call to the boardroom is a testament to a successful career. It is a special recognition of hard work, experience, and expertise, and one typically reserved for individuals who have conducted themselves as consummate professionals while building their credentials—and, just as important, their peer relationships and professional networks.
Being asked to serve on a corporate or not-for-profit board or even an organization’s advisory board is clearly an invitation to participate in the American dream. It represents an open door and a world of possibilities and learning. It demands an increasing amount of due diligence to determine which board is right for you and whether you’re up to the expectations of a board that asks you to join.
Know What You Are Signing Up For
A call to the boardroom should be received as both a special opportunity and a personal calling—a calling to service and to stewardship of institutional and shareholder concerns. It now demands a willingness to learn what it takes to be an effective director in an age of continued globalization, activism, and growing calls for the kind of servant leadership that puts others first.
It would be easy, given some human tendencies, to use a board appointment as a reason to gloat, to inflate an already healthy ego, and to trumpet the latest in your string of achievements. If you are so inclined, you’d better find some other place to channel your energy.
What is interesting—and telling about your success as a director sitting in a paid, corporate board seat or in a volunteer role with a not-for-profit, charitable, or advisory board—is that everything that brought you to this pinnacle moment is now set aside so you can focus on the company and work with other directors and management.
Part of the allure of a boardroom appointment is the public acknowledgment of your business savvy, experience, and expertise—and, perhaps most of all, its exclusive nature. Many are qualified, yet few are asked to serve, for reasons we will explain later in this chapter.
But the real key to your success in the boardroom will be to remind yourself, at the start of every single board meeting, that the call to the boardroom is a call to serve. It is an invitation to work hard, do your homework, show up, and contribute to the board’s business in a way that leverages what you know and need to know, as well as your willingness to put in the time to do the job well.
So revel in getting the call. Celebrate with family and friends. Feel good about yourself, then set to work immediately putting others’ interests at the fore.
Look for more insight from Montford and McCool here soon. For more information visit Board Games.