From your growing confidence and communication skills to big-picture thinking, here are 14 ways that taking a board seat at your company will help you in your daily duties and in your career progression, based on our experience at Aurora 50 and our conversation with Randall S Peterson, professor of organisational behaviour and academic director of the leadership institute at London Business School.
Becoming a board director will make you better at your job, by…
- Widening your professional network
- Building your business acumen
- Teaching collaboration
- Finessing communications skills
- Learning leadership
- Getting to grips with corporate governance
- Understanding your company’s vision
- Teaching better decision-making
- Building a support network
- Offering an opportunity to coach and mentor
- Providing a fresh intellectual challenge
- Growing your personal brand
- Making you better at your job
- Giving you confidence
Board assignments will extend both your professional and personal networks, introducing you to senior leaders from within your organisation or group, and allowing you to connect with the extended team around a company and its board. In time, if you become a non-executive director of a board, you are also likely to gain exposure to people in other industries. The next time you need specific expertise, you’ll know just who to call, something that could serve you well for the rest of your career.
Boards are made up of big-picture, long-term thinkers. You’ll learn to horizon-scan and build strategic thinking skills, a great new skill if your career has been focused on a single functional role to date.
Board roles are positions of great power and influence but they are also places” in need of collaboration”, Dr Peterson says, as all decisions are collective rather than individual (as they are in most managerial jobs). London Business School’s research, as well as that of others, shows that women have more experience in approaching problems collaboratively – so managerial and board roles often play to their experience and strengths.
As a director, you need to be able to clearly speak up to communicate your thoughts: boards consist of dynamic, intelligent individuals who spend limited time together and operate under extreme time constraints, so your communication skills will be tested as you learn how to make the most of the board’s time together – for instance, you will need to influence others when decisions are being made or speak up to disagree for the board minutes. And, much like the culture of companies differ, board dynamics differ. Some are highly formal and procedural while, on others, members actively challenge each other and encourage debate. Being exposed to such highly complex environments will teach you a great deal about yourself and how you engage with others: boards do not govern in a social vacuum.
Better boards mean better businesses. Learning how to conduct yourself and have an impact at the highest level requires a high level of maturity and independent thinking, and you will constantly be learning leadership – skills such as good facilitation of a board meeting, to draw the best out of each member.
Corporate governance refers to all laws, regulations, codes, processes and practices used to manage a company. It provides high transparency and accountability, and highlights the company’s direction while proving its business integrity. Getting to know and lead the corporate governance of a firm from its top table will help you understand the beating heart of your business’ processes and operations, and to strive for its financial health and market competitiveness.
Part of the duty of a board is to ensure the company has adequate resources. Learning how boards assess requirements will make it easier for you, back on the ‘shop floor’, to learn how to communicate your own needs to deliver the company’s vision. Not all employees do understand their company’s vision: a 2019 survey by US pollster Gallup found that only 41 per cent of employees strongly agreed that they knew what their organisation stood for and what made it different.
Boards have a duty to solve complex and strategic challenges. As a director, you’ll need to become adept at influencing, giving opinions and perspective from your own experience, to ensure well-informed, high-quality decisions are made as a group. This will help you make better informed decisions more confidently and efficiently back in your own role.
Other directors you work with may be good sounding boards for your daily work life issues, coming from different functions, viewpoints and sometimes organisations. They may even become mentors for you as you progress.
Contact with junior board colleagues, or with members of the organisation’s management team if you become an independent director, may give you the chance to become a coach and mentor yourself.
From dealing with mergers and acquisitions to cyber-security and sustainability, you will be learning constantly as a board director. This huge opportunity to upskill will give you a deeper understanding of a range of topics; there may even be the opportunity to get further training or certifications in some areas.
A role on your company’s board will show your professional credibility, is a public endorsement of your expertise, and is an impressive addition to your CV and to your LinkedIn profile. Dr Peterson says it will increase your profile significantly and likely make you a public figure within the business.
Of course, board service as an executive will help you become a better executive in your day job too. You’ll get to understand how the board can help you as a management team, while knowing what they will question will make you a more productive and impactful member of the executive. You may also come into contact with board directors who work for other organisations, and learn how those organisations manage their business and competitive landscapes.
Finally, with all this new knowledge, you will know just what to ask and who to ask. That will become a key contributor to board discussions as well as in your everyday work.
Pathway20 is Aurora 50’s flagship initiative to increase female board-level representation in the UAE. Peer-to-peer learning connects women with other new executive directors and introduces them to external independent directors, helping both future board directors and the organisations they work for. Please do get in touch for further information.