Julie continues her series on Steps for Women to Join a Board of Directors with Step 3.
The People Process
Finding a board seat is a people process in which you need to leverage your strategic relationships. Most people think of networking to facilitate their search for a board of director’s position. Contrary to this popular thought, you likely already know who you need to know in order to express your intention to become a director.
List your strategic relationships, everyone you know who is a CEO or sits on a company board. Start with the company you work for and their previous board of directors and its Chairmen.
Next, look back upon the not-for-profit boards of directors or trade associations where you served. Recall the CEOs who also sat on that board of directors. List the people who are CEOs or company board members.
Third, consider any Government agency boards or related Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) boards upon which you served. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas board is an example I use. It was my good fortune to serve on this board where regional education, business and banking leaders served. The connections made there where invaluable.
Presently, you will have a fairly long list. Now, rank the top twelve people who have the most strategic and global roles. This is your target list of people with whom to contact, re-connect and express your intention of seeking a board role. Ask for their help and ask what you can do for them.
Stay in touch over time. Reconnect two to four times a year. Send them relevant information occasionally about something they have expressed an interest in. It’s not networking; it’s relationship.
Do your homework. Do your research on the internet to search for the latest news on each person. Check LinkedIn, Forbes People, financial websites that track public company officers, etc.
Making the Call
Write a script for your first call, outlining at least three topics:
- Reconnect and ask what the other person is engaged in. Express your gratefulness for how they impacted your career positively in the past, if appropriate. Ask which boards they serve on today.
- Very briefly describe your current status and intent to be a director; ask if they know of any opportunities especially in the companies you are targeting. Ask them if an advisory board position is a good stepping-stone to a board of directors’ position.
- What is their story? How did they achieve their first board seat? What connections were vital to them being hired? What advice do they have for you?
- Ask what you can do for them in return.
Overall, the tone is light-hearted with no expectations and no attachment to the outcome. It’s important to build or re-build these strategic relationships. Make the first call. What worked? What did not work? Revise your script.
Make the second call and repeat: What worked? What didn’t work? Revise the script. The more often you perform the conversation, the more comfortable it becomes and the more enjoyable it is to do. Eventually, you will not use the script and your language will be second nature.
Use an Outlook Calendar reminder. Call each person again in three months or some amount of time no greater than 6 months. Be triggered by an event, quarterly earnings or press announcement or a major holiday such as Christmas.
Leverage the 12 most strategic relationships and global leaders you know to find the next board opportunity. Ultimately, they will be a reference for you, as well.
Finding a board seat is a people process.
If you haven’t read the first two steps for joining a board of directors, you can find Steps for Women to Join a Board of Directors: Step 1 of 8, and Step 2 of 8.