Women In Business

5 things you need to know to be on a board of directors

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Being a board director can be a very rewarding role to take on – both for your professional career and personal life.  Whether you’ve made the decision to join a board, or are just considering it, I’ve put together five things that you absolutely need to know before you commence on your board journey.

1. You should know what you’re getting in to

Hint: If you’re joining to boost your ego… you need to seriously reconsider your motivations. Joining a board sounds like a fancy place to hangout. Chances are, your friends and colleagues will be pretty impressed when you tell them that you’re a director at a great not-for-profit or popular local sports club.  Stop. Right. There.

That’s your ego talking. And letting your ego make decisions like this is probably not the best thing to lead you into the boardroom.

Being a director or board member comes with some serious obligations. Things like fiduciary duties and legal responsibilities that you can’t delegate to anyone else. Before you commence your board journey, it’s worth taking some time to read through some information online to understand your duties and responsibilities as a director.

A great place to start is sections 180-184 of the Corporations Act 2001 <http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ca2001172/index.html>. Even if the board you join doesn’t operate under this legislation, it’s a good minimum standard to hold yourself to.

2. You should use a board resume

When seeking a board position, you should be using a resume prepared specifically for board purposes. In your board cv there are some particular things that you should cover and focus on that are different from your traditional professional resume.

Tailoring it to the board and organisation, keeping it concise, and proofreading are some simple rules of thumb to follow for all resumes. Additional elements to include when writing your director resume include: a board profile, current and past board positions (or board alternatives if you don’t have previous board experience), career overview, education and qualifications, relevant professional memberships, recognitions and awards, and other relevant information.

This guide can help you build a board cv.

3. You should be picky about the board you join

Joining the wrong board can be extraordinarily frustrating and extremely risky for you. Not only could your reputation be affected; you can be at risk financially and personally.

All of that can be avoided if you go into any potential board position with your eyes wide open. What this means is doing your due diligence: heavy research into the organisation and board prior to joining that gets you to a point where you feel comfortable getting on that board.

Part of your due diligence should involve questioning: both during the formal board interview and informally with the Chair and other board members (if possible). Pay attention to the information that is shared – and not shared – with you prior to joining the board.

4. You should have a commitment to learning

You don’t need a qualification to be a company director. What you should have though is a commitment to learning. Your professional career likely calls for it and you should apply to same rigor to your board career.

Invest in learning and development related to being a company director – it is quite a unique and specific skill area, and the governance landscape is always changing and evolving. Formal or informal, there are many director education choices available to you (Boardroom Bootcamp being one of them).

5. It might take some time

In between letting people know that you’re looking for a board position, networking with existing board members, preparing your board cv, and finding the perfect board for you, a lot of time can pass. Add to that the fact that boards sometimes meet infrequently and a crisis can pop up at any minute, it can take a while before you a formally appointed to a board.

Most boards also like to wait until their annual general meeting (AGM) before appointing / electing people to the board. The majority of AGMs happen in October and November each year, so keep that in mind about when to start your active board search or if you’re starting to get a little impatient with a board you have begun engaging with.

As you can see, starting a board career takes some considerable forethought, effort, risk-taking, and commitment. The rewards are plentiful though and I encourage you to start your board career on the right foot.

About Lisa Cook

Lisa Cook is the Founder and Managing Director of Get on Board Australia . Get on Board delivers education and development courses that are open to new and aspiring company directors from all professional backgrounds and all types of industries (public, private, NFP, sporting organisations and clubs, etc.). Get on Board focuses on aspiring directors – those people looking to join a board in the near future – and on new directors – those who are currently in their first to fifth year of sitting on a board. Get on Board delivers the Boardroom Bootcamp course: a 12-week online program leading to a Certificate in Board Readiness.Lisa sits on the board of a number of organisations in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in Adelaide and Sydney. Lisa holds a degree from Charles Sturt University in business management and marketing, and has completed the Foundations of Directorship program through AICD.

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