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Key Steps to Landing Board Positions


20 August 2015 at 12:25 pm
Xavier Smerdon
Appointments to Boards are fiercely competitive and very rarely make it to the open market but there is a science and process to follow to help anyone who is seriously thinking of pursuing a Director’s role, writes executive recruiter, Ineke Read.

Xavier Smerdon | 20 August 2015 at 12:25 pm


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Key Steps to Landing Board Positions
20 August 2015 at 12:25 pm

Appointments to Boards are fiercely competitive and very rarely make it to the open market but there is a science and process to follow to help anyone who is seriously thinking of pursuing a Director’s role, writes executive recruiter, Ineke Read.

Board appointments were previously considered to be something of a cushy professional affiliation where members were compensated well, and usually had limited responsibilities.

The work was not considered time-consuming and being paid to attend meetings was something most ambitious executives aspired to.

But high profile scandals, such as FIFA and the recent sacking of the entire All Codes Racing Industry Board in Queensland, has brought a need to relook at the Board Director function.

Given that a Director plays a role in both corporate governance and also adds to a business’s strategic direction, it’s more important than ever that Directors are competent and that the process of appointment is merit based.

This also coincides with the Government moving towards ensuring there is more diversity on Boards. Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Queensland government recently ran an advertising campaign calling for female applications for Board appointments and committees and the Victorian government recently announced that all future board appointments must be 50 per cent women.

As an executive recruiter, I am often asked for advice on what executives need to do to prepare themselves for Board appointments. Existing Directors are also aware that appointments to Boards are fiercely competitive and very rarely make it to the open market.

However, there is a science to it and the process is one that anyone that is seriously thinking of pursuing a role as a Director should follow.

What can you do then to ensure that you are best placed to market yourself as a strong candidate for a Director role?

Here are some key tips to consider:

  1. Make sure that you have completed the AICD Company Director’s course. This course has 10 modules that will help you to clearly understand your role as a Director and help you to gain greater understanding of the duties and responsibilities. This course will also help your understanding of how to improve your performance as a Board Director. See here for links for information about the course.

  2. Supplement this course with your own learning about governance. The ASX accepted a leadership role in enhancing Australian corporate governance practices by convening the ASX Corporate Governance Council in 2002. Since then, the Council has developed and released recommendations of practices to be adopted. Be aware of the documents released by this council and make yourself familiar with them.

For example, the most recent version of the Council’s Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations was released on 27 March, 2014 and took effect the following financial year. Other documents released by the council cover topics such as disclosure rules, principles of handling confidential information, diversity practices and guidelines for meetings to name a few. It’s a plethora of excellent information to read, understand and be able to apply. It’s also interesting to go back through previous documents that the council has released in order to understand how governance and board measurement changed from 2002 to the present.

  1. Start by establishing experience with private companies, industry associations, Not for Profits and schools. Often these appointments are unpaid and will take up a lot of your time, but if you are not prepared to give back and invest in your own learning it’s unlikely a paid Directorship will “fall” into your lap. This will also give you valuable exposure to the role of a Director and being able to demonstrate good performance elsewhere will hold you in good stead.

  2. Many Board appointments are still made through personal contacts, so invest time in building strong connections with other Directors and Chairpersons.

  3. Understand your specific skill set. Board requirements are always changing, including the need to have stronger understanding of digital strategies. Make sure you read David Reynold’s recent article on Board competencies. Identify your gaps and start to work towards rectifying deficiencies.

It should also go without saying that your performance as an executive is equally important, as is having a reputation for integrity, honesty and strong leadership.

So what are you currently doing to raise your executive profile?

About the author: Ineke Read is Principal Consultant in Davidson Executive. General Manager of Davidson Executive, David Reynolds, has also just put together a White Paper based on his 20 years in HR and executive recruitment (for boards) on “Are your board directors effective and adding the right value?” Download the free white paper here.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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