Robertson Associates has newly added Board Member recruiting to our suite of services. This comes in response to new demand from inside the board room and also from seasoned executive leadership interested in joining corporate boards. Companies are looking for different board member profiles than we have seen in the past.
For our readers interested in becoming board members, I share some insights and advice below from the collective intelligence of the Robertson team as we have had recent success in corporate board member match making.
Often, when we meet potential board members, the story goes a bit like this:
At some point along the way of your successful professional career, the dream of having more freedom in your work crept in. Maybe you considered the independent consulting route, but decided that wasn’t for you. Probably a good choice.
The light at the end of your tunnel since then has been membership on the board of directors (BOD) - maybe even sitting on two or three boards? These placements can be quite lucrative after all; and you know a few older colleagues who have board placements and it does not seem to add too much to their plate.
Then you start beefing up your profile with an academic diploma to prepare yourself to hold a board seat, because you understand that corporate governance is changing. Corporate Boards are becoming more diverse and merit-based with appointments based on specific skill sets. Getting hired is more competitive with the appointment of executive search firms who guarantee a neutral and professional process.
Now that’s not your grandfather’s board of directors anymore.
If you were thinking that you’ve got a friend who can get you on that board you were hoping to join, consider this path carefully. I have some exclusion criteria for you...
You expose yourself to risk. It has always been true that the proverbial s*%t flows uphill. Now, more and more, members of the BOD themselves are being held liable for the decisions they oversee. Just have a look at what Deloitte says about it.
The choice may not only be up to you. Certainly, if you are currently employed by another company, you must first receive permission from your employer to join the BOD of another company. Despite your extensive experience, you may not fit the profile a certain BOD is looking for. New recommendations spell out how a board’s diversity should serve the best interests of both the corporation and the nation. This is a bit different from the practice of the last generation.
Deeply consider this significant responsibility and the commitment it entails. It is less and less the case that board membership is the golden parachute for an executive with friends in high places. It is looking more and more like real work. When you add up all that is required for BOD meetings, sub-committee meetings, preparation for all of these meetings, and the travel - the sum is a lot of time. Will you sacrifice your sacred 20 or 30 days of holiday? Will you forego the long anticipated family trip to Canada? Even if you do, does your spouse support that choice?
If this has cooled you down a bit, there is an alternative I often recommend for anyone who would like to test the water first...
Nonprofit Board Membership - An In-Between Step
Nonprofits need board leaders just like for profits do. While these roles are not compensated, they can be quite fulfilling. Nonprofit board membership is also a great way build out your curriculum vitae in anticipation of a time when you will seek for profit board membership.
You Are Still Interested?!
Fantastic. Corporations need great, principled leaders.
If you have spent your career cultivating your leadership skills, including your ability to own some of the toughest decisions yourself, then extend your influence with a board of directors membership. With luck, you can spend your senatorial years working smarter - not harder.