Ev­ery­one is talk­ing about get­ting a board ap­point­ment but you need to ‘dare them not to ap­point you’

In­creas­ingly peo­ple are seek­ing Non Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor­ships to com­ple­ment their ex­ec­u­tive ca­reers or are con­sid­er­ing tran­si­tion­ing from an ex­ec­u­tive role to a port­fo­lio of board di­rec­tor­ships. Whilst many recog­nise the per­sonal and pro­fes­sional ben­e­fits o

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In­creas­ingly peo­ple are seek­ing Non Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor­ships to com­ple­ment their ex­ec­u­tive ca­reers or are con­sid­er­ing tran­si­tion­ing from an ex­ec­u­tive role to a port­fo­lio of board di­rec­tor­ships.

David Schwarz is an ex-in­ter­na­tional non-ex­ec­u­tive re­cruiter and board ca­reer coach who has in­ter­viewed thou­sands of non-ex­ec­u­tives and helped place hun­dreds into some of the most sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic, pri­vate and NFP board roles in the world. He is the Founder & CEO of Board Di­rec­tion (Putting Peo­ple on Boards) - Aus­tralia’s lead­ing Non Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor con­sul­tancy – fo­cused en­tirely on get­ting mem­bers a board ap­point­ment through a wide va­ri­ety prac­ti­cal ser­vices & train­ing cour­ses as well as ad­ver­tis­ing Aus­tralia’s largest & most di­verse list of Non Ex­ec­u­tive va­can­cies.

David took the time to speak with Busi­ness First about: what it takes to gain a board ap­point­ment, how to re­cruit non ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors and im­por­tantly, how you can ‘dare them not to ap­point you’. Busi­ness First: David, can you give is a run down of Board Di­rec­tion and the suc­cess it has had? David Schwarz: Board Di­rec- tion launched in 2013 and in just over three years has gen­er­ated a fol­low­ing of over 35,000 peo­ple and has helped thou­sands de­velop board ca­reers or tran­si­tion from an ex­ec­u­tive to a non-ex­ec­u­tive . Ad­di­tion­ally, on av­er­age, each year we ad­ver­tise the board va­can­cies of al­most 1000 or­gan­i­sa­tions and over 1500 in­di­vid­ual NED va­can­cies – all of which are avail­able to our mem­bers.

The rea­son for our suc­cess is largely that we of­fer a gen­uinely unique ser­vice – one that is en­tirely

ded­i­cated to help­ing cur­rent and as­pir­ing non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors achieve their board as­pi­ra­tions. It would be ac­cu­rate to say that no one in the world of­fers the ser­vices we do or can ar­tic­u­late the suc­cess we have had in this field. BF: What are the per­sonal and pro­fes­sional ben­e­fits of gain­ing a board ap­point­ment? DS:

The ben­e­fits of hold­ing a non ex­ec­u­tive board di­rec­tor­ship, in ad­di­tion to a ex­ec­u­tive ca­reer, have been widely re­ported. Those who do have, on av­er­age, bet­ter ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties, broader pro­fes­sional con­nec­tions, are more strate­gic, earn more and are con­sid­ered more valu­able em­ploy­ees. Fur­ther, board roles pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to ‘give back’ or pivot your ca­reer from ‘ex­ec­u­tive’ to a port­fo­lio ca­reer of paid board di­rec­tor­ships – the lat­ter be­ing a very at­trac­tive op­tion for many. BF: ‘Dare them not to ap­point you’ is your motto – tell us more. DS:

This is a quote I bor­rowed and mod­i­fied from a previous Chair­man – though his ver­sion was a lit­tle more strongly worded! Es­sen­tially, gain­ing a board ap­point­ment is a highly com­pet­i­tive ex­er­cise so peo­ple need to be re­ally clear about what it is that they of­fer a board and why they should be ap­pointed. I think this phrase sums it up nicely. BF: Is it dif­fi­cult to gain a board ap­point­ment? DS:

Gain­ing a non ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor­ship (whether in the Not for Profit, Govern­ment or Pri­vate Sec­tor) is a highly com­pet­i­tive with both ex­ec­u­tives and non ex­ec­u­tives tus­sling for the same board op­por­tu­ni­ties. In fact, many say that find­ing their first board ap­point­ment was ex­tremely chal­leng­ing but even ex­pe­ri­enced non ex­ec­u­tives de­scribe find­ing their sub­se­quent board ap­point­ments as just as dif­fi­cult. That is why the ser­vices of Board Di­rec­tion are so valu­able. BF: What is the typ­i­cal time com­mit­ment and remuneration for a non ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor? DS:

Half day meet­ings and travel time, com­mit­tee meet­ings and read­ing of board pa­pers equate to about one day a month. How­ever, you should also ex­pect to spend another day a month for un­ex­pected board busi­ness. How­ever, for many this com­mit­ment can be man­aged out side of of­fice hours. BF: What does a board look for in a suc­cess­ful non ex­ec­u­tive can­di­date? DS:

A Chair­per­son wants to see five (5) things in a suc­cess­ful can­di­date

Prior gov­er­nance ex­pe­ri­ence – that is ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with or on boards, or at the very least se­nior ex­pe­ri­ence.

Ex­ec­u­tive skills - skills that the board re­quires to ef­fec­tively gov­ern the or­gan­i­sa­tion. 3. Con­nec­tions - per­sonal or pro­fes­sional net­works that can be lever­aged by the board for the good of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Demon­stra­ble pas­sion – pas­sion for what the or­gan­i­sa­tion does, the in­dus­try or for gov­er­nance.

Cul­tural fit – some­one who can work ef­fec­tively with the rest of the board.

There are of course oth­ers like: gov­er­nance train­ing, diver­sity and in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence but re­gard­less of the scope or scale of an or­gan­i­sa­tion the five el­e­ments above are cen­tral to a suc­cess­ful ap­point­ment. BF: What do you need need to pre­pare for a board di­rec­tor­ship? DS:

A prospec­tive board mem­ber must un­der­stand the jour­ney ahead, what works and what the pit­falls are – there are marked dif­fer­ences be­tween an ex­ec­u­tive job hunt­ing ex­er­cise and the board ap­point­ment process. How­ever, peo­ple can pre­pare them­selves by ad­her­ing to the fol­low­ing: 1. Man­age your ex­pec­ta­tions Many ex­pe­ri­enced ex­ec­u­tives, but as­pir­ing board di­rec­tors, ex­pect their first board role to be re­mu­ner­ated. Re­mu­ner­ated board roles are highly sort af­ter and of­ten in­volve com­pet­i­tive re­cruit­ment pro­cesses. With­out demon­stra­ble board ex­pe­ri­ence get­ting this type of role can be chal­leng­ing. 2. Know what do you have to of­fer You should know and prac­tice your ‘el­e­va­tor pitch’ and be clear on the suc­cesses you have had and the ex­pe­ri­ence you bring. Boards want not just your pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence but ac­cess to your net­works de­vel­oped through your ex­ist­ing non ex­ec­u­tive or ex­ec­u­tive ca­reer so, be clear about what you bring to a board in this re­gard. 3. De­velop your per­sonal con­nec­tions The ap­point­ment process for board or ad­vi­sory panel roles in many cases is not dis­sim­i­lar to that of an ex­ec­u­tive ap­point­ment process. Many find that the ma­jor­ity of op­por­tu­ni­ties are never ad­ver­tised and are filled by word of mouth or through ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships. So, de­vel­op­ing ‘per­sonal con­nec­tions’ is vi­tal and should form the ba­sis of any search process. 4. Use ex­ec­u­tive re­cruiters Ex­ec­u­tive re­cruiters or ‘head­hunters’ are a great source of in­for­ma­tion and of­ten have ac­cess to op­por­tu­ni­ties that are never ad­ver­tised. 5. Get a ‘Board Ready’ CV/Re­sume Many peo­ple as­sume that their ex­ec­u­tive CV is ap­pro­pri­ate for board ap­pli­ca­tions. In most cases it is not. A num­ber key changes need to take place to make it ‘board ready’ in­clud­ing: 1. Clearly ad­dress­ing the five things a Chair looks for in a new board ap­point­ment. 2. List­ing non-ex­ec­u­tive, panel or com­mit­tee ex­pe­ri­ence and 3. Demon­strat­ing your suc­cess in strate­gic and gov­er­nance en­vi­ron­ments. If this all seems like too much work then con­tact us and we can help you write one. 6. Write a great cover let­ter Chair’s read cover let­ters, so any ap­pli­ca­tions for non-ex­ec­u­tive roles must in­clude one. Well- re­searched and writ­ten cover let­ters also sep­a­rate you from your com­peti­tors and in a highly com­pet­i­tive ap­pli­ca­tion process this is es­sen­tial. A strong cover let­ter ar­tic­u­lates: Your pas­sion for the role; what you would bring to the role (gov­er­nance ex­pe­ri­ence, skills and net­works) and: Your pas­sion for the com­pany/or­gan­i­sa­tion is a great way to be­gin any ap­pli­ca­tion. BF: How do peo­ple get ap­pointed to a board? DS:

There are four (4) ways peo­ple gain a board ap­point­ment. The vast ma­jor­ity are ap­pointed via a per­sonal con­nec­tion though not nec­es­sar­ily through peo­ple who know them well. Then there are a large pro­por­tion who are ap­pointed by: di­rectly ap­proach­ing or­gani-

sa­tions them­selves; re­spond­ing to ad­ver­tise­ments or; work­ing with re­cruiters.

BF: How can Board Di­rec­tion help re­cruit Non Ex­ec­u­tive Board Di­rec­tors?

DS: We of­fer three ways for com­pa­nies in the pub­lic, pri­vate or not for profit sec­tors to re­cruit board mem­bers. 1. Ad­ver­tis­ing: A com­pletely free ser­vice for or­gan­i­sa­tions to ad­ver­tise their board or ad­vi­sory board va­can­cies. 2. Non Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tory: A unique and, again, en­tirely free ser­vice where re­cruit­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions can search, view and con­tact our NED mem­bers - think of it as a LinkedIn for Board Di­rec­tors. 3. Non Ex­ec­u­tive Re­cruit­ment: Another unique ser­vice that is dis­rupt­ing the board re­cruit­ment sec­tor which has been static for gen­er­a­tions. Here, we lever­age Aus­tralia’s largest Non Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor data­base to not only gen­er­ate for you board can­di­dates that you want to ap­point but also brand your or­gan­i­sa­tion to over 35,000 NEDs – an amaz­ing byprod­uct.

BF: How can help in­di­vid­u­als de­velop a board ca­reer or gain their first board di­rec­tor­ship?

DS: We tai­lor a broad range of re­ally prac­ti­cal ser­vices for both ex­pe­ri­enced and as­pi­ra­tional board di­rec­tors. Es­sen­tially, we help our mem­bers to un­der­stand the jour­ney ahead, to look bet­ter – both on pa­per and in an in­ter­view, and give them the prac­ti­cal tools and tem­plates they need to ‘dare them not to be ap­pointed’.

Most, if not all, of the ser­vices we pro­vide are unique and have been de­velop by my­self from over a decade of putting peo­ple on boards. The most com­mon ser­vices we pro­vide in­clude: Ac­cess to the board va­can­cies we ad­ver­tise, Board CV writ­ing, Board Search Mas­ter Classes, a Train­ing & Ac­count­abil­ity Course and Per­sonal Board Ca­reer Coach­ing.

BF: Board CV writ­ing? Is there re­ally a dif­fer­ence be­tween a Board CV and an Ex­ec­u­tive CV?

DS: There is! A Board Ready CV is dif­fer­ent both in terms of tone, con­tent and struc­ture and can make the dif­fer­ence be­tween a suc­cess­ful ap­pli­ca­tion and an un­suc­cess­ful one. Re­gard­less of how much weight you think a board CV might carry (and they carry a lot) it is a good in­vest­ment to get one pro­fes­sion­ally writ­ten at the be­gin­ning of your board search.

BF: Are you suc­cess­ful in get­ting peo­ple board ap­point­ments?

DS: We are. We couldn’t ref­er­ence the suc­cess we have had with out be­ing good at what we do. We mea­sure our suc­cess in a num­ber of ways: the num­ber of board va­can­cies we ad­ver­tise (up over 50% in the last 12months); our mem­ber sat­is­fac­tion and how many of our mem­bers get onto boards.

For those in­ter­ested in gain­ing a non ex­ec­u­tive board ap­point­ment or de­vel­op­ing a port­fo­lio ca­reer, Board Di­rec­tion is of­fer­ing a com­pli­men­tary ‘Board Ap­point­ments’ E-book and a 10% dis­count on all of its prod­ucts and ser­vices to Busi­ness First read­ers who use the ‘busi­nessfirst’ code at check­out and look for­ward to hav­ing you on board! Just visit: https:// board­di­rec­tion.com.au/ for more in­for­ma­tion.

David Schwarz

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