Any board role comes with some level of risk, but for most, the rewards of being a board director far outweigh any risks. The highly competitive process many face in gaining a board appointment attests to this. In my experience, there are at least seven rewards of being a board director in the UK. These should keep you motivated to pursue your board aspirations.
There are some who are lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to join a board, but their first thought is NO. The possible risks to them reputationally, financially and personally come to mind that they cannot get past. However, they should be identifying and mitigating (where possible) any of these risks. They should then consider the rewards of being a board director. Finally, weighing up the positives and the negatives. In most cases, the positives will win.
The 7 rewards of being a board director
If you have been or are a Non-Executive Director (NED), it is most likely that you have experienced many of these rewards:
- Career and Professional Development: Sitting on a board provides invaluable insight and experience into the dynamics of decision-making and relationships. You develop an understanding of how group decision-making works. Every board is different, but as a part of an executive group, there will be conflicts and issues that influence the decision-making process.
- Strategic Experience: As a board recruiter, one of the questions I ask aspiring NEDs is to evidence their strategic experience. The keyword here is evidence. Most executives fail this task and miss out on making their mark. However, those who sit on boards are more than capable of answering this question. They can articulate their ability to work strategically and their experience working with senior individuals. Those without board experience struggle to evidence their strategic knowledge and suffer compared to those who can.
- Relationships Building: Sitting on a board provides a unique environment to build and nurture personal and professional relationships, often with people that you may not cross paths with otherwise. As a board or committee, you are a group of individuals coming together to achieve common outcomes. There are few better ways to get to know people than sitting around a board table discussing issues that everyone is passionate about. The relationships formed often result in new business or professional opportunities. As an unpaid NED, I have consistently earned income due to relationships developed from board roles.
- Opportunity to Give Back: What I hear most from people is they want to join a board to give back to their community. For me, it sounds clichéd, but the truth is, for many, it is the underlying reason they serve on boards or committees. This has its own set of rewards, including improving your wellbeing.
- Remuneration: You can get paid, and I have written before about how much you can expect to be remunerated. This additional income source is vital to many and can help you during retirement. It should be noted that even unremunerated/voluntary board roles can have financial benefits. I have never been paid for my board work, but I have always received some form of financial reward through the relationships and experience I have gained as a non-executive director.
- Professional Transitions: Many people seek board experience as a fallback or in preparation for post-executive life. Having been through the GFC in the UK as a recruiter, I can put my hand on my heart and tell you that it was because of my board experience that I was never unemployed in that period. In fact, my salary and professional experience increased during this period.
- Build your Brand & Profile: Essential, just 5% of the population hold board appointments. It is elite status. I do not recommend that you seek a board appointment on the basis alone; it will enhance your professional and social profile. Just the title of being a ‘NED’ may open up doors. It can give you access to those you would not usually have the opportunity to speak with. This, in turn, increases your professional personal brand.
In summary, there are numerous reasons for pursuing a board appointment, and when considering them, you should consider the rewards of being a board director. Board appointments demonstrate strategic success, that you can work effectively at the most senior management level, and have developed perspectives outside of executive role or organisation. Studies have shown that people with a board role and an executive role are more appointable, earn more, are unemployed less and have strong business and professional networks. They can also future-proof their careers, have more ‘successful’ retirements and are more versatile in dealing with career changes.
So in my mind, the question is not ‘Is a board appointment worth the risk?’ but rather ‘How do I find board opportunities that are right for me?’ This is something that Board Direction can help you solve. We will show you a simple, easy-to-implement process to get you appointed.
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 in 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.