Aspiration, Articulation and Application (Target, Pitch and Persevere) are the three pillars of a board appointment. If you get any of them wrong, your journey to a board appointment will be unstructured, take longer and will result in frustration – making your journey unsustainable and unsuccessful.
My last few articles have dealt with the first pillar of a board appointment – Aspiration – defining the names of the organisations you want and can be appointed to. If you missed them, then you can read them here.
Defining your target organisations is absolutely your first step but, if you can’t articulate why you should be appointed, then what is the point? Without being able to do so effectively, you just won’t be appointed. So, I want to move now to the second of the core pillars of a board appointment – Articulation.
Let’s delve into this in a little more detail. When I speak about Articulation what I really mean is developing a pitch that defines the reasons you should be considered for a board appointment.
The most valuable thing you can do to gain a board appointment?
Tell people you are looking for one! It is a surprisingly powerful and simple action that creates board opportunities. In fact, one of my NED Program members did that just last week. She was at a function, got talking with someone she had not met before and told them about her board aspirations. The following conversation circled around that topic and resulted in an opportunity she had never considered but was very much interested in. All because she had worked her board aspirations into her vernacular.
The recent article I wrote about the Fundamental Attribution Error, explaining why this approach works. Put simply, people only know what you tell them. This, and with 50% of all organisations with boards recruiting a new board member each year and perhaps 50% of all board appointments occurring through a person you meet rarely or infrequently, it is critical that people know you are looking for a board appointment.
Not that easy
If you are going to start telling people you are looking for a board role, then you need to be ready for the subsequent question. ‘why do you want a board appointment?’ It is a very common question – in fact, it is the first question I ask people when they approach me for advice. You should expect to be asked the same question. As such, you must be prepared to answer it. What if you happened to bump into someone at a professional event and they asked you why you wanted to be a Non-Executive; what would you say?
There are two ways most people answer this question. The vast majority of people get it wrong. Successful directors get it right and get appointed to opportunities they hadn’t even gone after.
Your motivation and their motivation
If you are like many, then I suspect you will tell them about your personal motivations, you will tell them about your executive experience and outline to them why you like their company. You will likely do this and omit the information that they care about.
You see, people spend too much time thinking about why they think they should be appointed to a board and not enough time considering what the motivations are for the Chair (the ultimate decision-maker) to appoint you – what the ROI (return on investment) is on your appointment.
In the next couple of articles, I am going to share with you the common mistakes people make when articulating their value at board level. I will show you how you can prepare a pitch that de-risks you, leads to board recommendations, articulates why your skills and experience are valuable at board level and drives board appointments.
Articulating your board pitch appropriately takes time to get right. You need to practice it, test it and believe it for it to be effective. In doing so you will become more confident in your approach and begin to own the reasons you should be appointed to a board.
Once you have a firm list of targets in mind, the next thing you must be able to do is to articulate your value to that board or boards just like it. Without being able to do so, you will likely position yourself as a reactionary, inarticulate, opportunistic candidate and a reputational risk – all of which means that you won’t be able to convince others of your value at board level.
Keep an eye out for our next article that will get into the detail.
About the Author
David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Appointments – The UK’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world.