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How to become a board member

How to become a board member

The Essential steps to becoming a board member

Joining a board of directors can be an incredibly rewarding experience and very helpful for your career. And it's not just for those experienced professionals who have been there and got the t-shirt. 

It can be something you can take on quite early in your career as long as you add value to the organisation you are supporting, whether that is in professional advice or specialist sector advice. 

However, if you are planning on joining a board, there are a few things you need to consider to ensure that you and the board you are joining get the most from the experience.

Why Should I Join A Board

There are real professional benefits to joining a board of directors.

Understand Corporate Governance

As a reason to join a board, this sounds incredibly boring, and the prospect of joining a board to understand governance for many is probably not at the top of most people's list. 

However, every organisation needs a certain level of corporate governance to operate effectively, and it is advantageous to understand how this works if you have ambitions to take on a more senior role someday. 

Confidence 

Taking up a board position is more than just a box-ticking exercise. Any fully functioning board of directors should include some vigorous debate. 

That is not to say that there should be continuous arguments, but you should expect to be challenged and to challenge others around the table to help the organisation achieve the best outcome. 

Now, no one would expect you to join a board and jump straight in, confronting the chair. However, as you experience the board environment and understand the mechanics of the discussion, your confidence will grow, and it will help you in your daily negotiations at work.   

Professional Development

There are several different types of boards you could join, and it can really help at various stages of your career.

Early in your career, it might be a sports club you are part of, or you could support a local charity in your spare time. These boards often seek practical help and advice on things like social media or another technical specialism you might have.   

As you grow in your career, you could sit on the board of a professional development organisation or even a community council in your local area, which can benefit from your increased experience.

Whomever you join and at whatever stage of your career, you will often be looked upon favourably by potential employers as someone who goes above and beyond to support an organisation and learn about operating at a senior level.  

Doing Something Worthwhile

Very often, these are voluntary positions, but organisations can't operate without the support of people giving up their spare time. So, while there is a professional benefit to taking on a board position, and you will learn a lot, it is a good thing to do that will benefit many others. 

What's Involved in Joining A Board

Joining a board is quite a commitment; you shouldn't take on the role lightly. As mentioned, most board positions are voluntary, so there is a level of understanding that everyone is giving up their own time, and most already have jobs and a personal life. 

However, if you are lucky enough to be selected for a board role, you need to be prepared to sacrifice some personal time.

Be prepared

Set aside time to prepare for board meetings, as it is crucial that everyone contributes to the discussion. 

You will likely receive board papers to review before the meeting, which the CEO, Chair, or Board Secretary will prepare. It is crucial that you read, understand, and prepare any questions you might have before the meeting. Some will be for information, but in the main, the papers should be in preparation for a discussion with a view to making a decision.

The board meeting is not for people to read from the paper but to come ready to discuss the pros and cons and decide. If you are not prepared to participate, your value to the board is negligible. 

So come prepared.

Challenge

Again, as was mentioned, your role as an active board member is to challenge and test the proposals to ensure that every possibility is discussed. 

It is essential to recognise that no debate around the table should be personal, and you shouldn't take it as such. It is okay to disagree in a professional and polite fashion. 

Developing an innovative culture in an organisation that is vital for growth relies heavily on diversity of thought. So, having a range of views around the board table who debate vociferously isn't just important; it is vital to the success of any organisation.

Join In, Become Part of The Team

In some voluntary organisations, there can be an expectation on the board to support operationally at times where they can. This isn't always the case; as I mentioned, the board is recognised as volunteers. 

However, there may be occasions when you need to attend events or provide tactical support to subcommittees.

You should also try to meet and get to know the team. As a board member, you are a critical part of the organisation; you and the other board members set the vision and values and must live by them just like any operational team member. 

Board Positions

Every board has its requirements, but in the main, some key positions need to be covered. 

  • The Chair. This is a vital role on any board. It is crucial that there is an independent chair who can inspire debate, ensure every voice is heard, and find a resolution to move things forward. 
  • Finance Director: Every organisation, whether charity or private, must keep a firm grasp on its finances. Having a position on the board to advise or work with the executive team to get an accurate financial picture is vital to operate successfully.
  • Independent Director - This role is essential, as having an independent voice who can offer an impartial assessment is vital.

 

Joining a Board

As you can see, joining a board has many benefits and is a vital support to many organisations. However, you should never take on a role without truly understanding the expectations and knowing that you can give it the time it requires. 

But if you do, it can be incredibly rewarding.   

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