In the past the boardroom was, let’s face it, a “good old boys” club and only in recent years have a few women been added to the mix. Boards are introducing diversity (gender diversity in particular) and new lines of thinking. CEOs were the decision makers, but that too has changed in the past 10 years.
The CEO and chairman of the board roles are now split. The CEO does not have the influence they had before, and the chairman function is more the motivator of change. In most cases, a governance committee has taken responsibility for how the Board interviews and hires; it is no longer the exclusive duty of the CEO.
Why do you want to be on a Board?
The answer is different for everyone. Sometimes it can be very basic. You stepped away from executive life and want to do something that utilizes your experience to help other people and organizations. Be aware that some people take a leap from executive work to a position on a board, and it doesn’t always work out.
Never had a Board of Directors role?
One-third of new directors in Fortune 500 companies are people who have never served on a board before. But you still need to be realistic about not being a director before. Companies are just starting to take on more people without board experience. One strategy is to bring on a new (inexperienced) director and acclimate them to the responsibilities of that board position. Five or 10 years ago that would not have happened. With the new changes in board thinking, it is also predicted that we will see a better representation of women in the future.
There is training specifically to prepare executives for a role on a board of directors. Many board members are not convinced that a couple days of training makes you a board candidate.
Taking a role on a non-profit board can be helpful as part of the first step if you’ve never been on a board of directors. In the US it is very valuable for networking because you interact with other corporate people who may be directors on those boards, You gain applicable experience and have an ability to impress the types of individuals who do sit on for-profit boards and have influence.
Next week I’ll discuss what boards of directors are looking for in candidates for the US and in Europe.