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4 Tips to Help Secure a Board Appointment

The vast majority of board candidates are self-appointed leaders – those who have created a high level of visibility for themselves, directed efforts to achieve superior results and created learning opportunities for themselves to advance their expertise and position themselves for advancement. Here are a few tips to help board candidates as they seek appointments.

You have reached a level in your career that makes you “board ready.” You know that you can add value in the boardroom. You see specific opportunities to use your expertise to help solve problems on a board. While you don’t have the title yet, you are ready to own the leadership required to move from ideas to action and gain a board seat. This is a board candidate’s self-appointed leadership position.

Some, if not most, of the board candidates reading this article will come to the director interview from a position of self-appointing. To self-appoint to the highest executive position in the corporate world takes a deep sense of confidence. Most future directors do not have a CEO come to them and suggest that their career trajectory should include a public company board seat. Many professionals that desire a seat at the board table are self-appointed, and often times this is a self-directed goal.

If you are considering a public company board seat, you have achieved a standard of excellence in your work. You most probably had to sacrifice and create a high level of visibility for yourself to achieve your goals. Your commitment to a relentless focus on small incremental steps that move toward superior performance have paid off. Today you are consciously and continuously identifying your expertise to build and create learning opportunities for yourself beyond those offered by employers as standard training — you are directing your own advancement.

If you are in the position of self-appointing, your track record of going beyond ordinary effort — putting in extra time, taking personal responsibility for professional growth and making leadership development part of your everyday work — will pay off in the boardroom and all the actions required in order to gain a board seat. As you continue to take steps that will increase your readiness, here are a few tips to help you on your journey:

  1. Examine your experiences. Be forward-looking and positive to a fault. Develop an educational program based on any board-level skill gaps that will accelerate your performance and make you a valuable resource in the boardroom.
  2. Observe models. Look for others who have similar backgrounds and are sitting directors. Incorporate their actions or behaviors to help you accomplish your goals. Seriously consider finding a mentor from this group of people so that you have an objective voice in your journey. To make the very best progress, hire a coach who specializes in executive-to-board campaigns (pardon the author’s shameless self-promotion) to leverage your expertise into a directorship strategy and a clear, concise, board-level value proposition.
  3. Benchmark yourself. Make observations through your networking about other board candidates and rank yourself. This is an excellent opportunity to compare strengths and weaknesses. Take steps for improvements that round out target competencies in your board-level skill gaps list. From a recruiter’s standpoint, you do not have to fit every requirement on a director specification (description of the desired skills, knowledge and expertise for the board seat), so don’t be a perfectionist.
  4. Practice. Before you are contacted for a director interview, make sure you are ready. Give your pitch to a few other professionals and have them review your documents. Ask for specific ways you can improve.

High-level executives continually broaden their experience, and board work can be a dynamic part of a thoughtful career plan. That said, self-directed career leadership requires a significant amount of initiative on the part of the individual, so be careful to build momentum and not let the setbacks diminish your enthusiasm.

Takeaway: There are many candidates vying for a few seats. Be clear — to accomplish the goal of gaining a board seat, the buck starts and ends with you.

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Tracy Houston

Tracey HoustonTracy E. Houston, M.A. is the President of Board Resources Services, LLC. She is a refined specialist in board consulting and executive coaching with a heartfelt passion for rethinking performance, teams and the boardroom. She provides a highly successful executive coaching engagement to help candidates gain a public company board seat. Her Board Guru™ e-book series for board members and board candidates can be seen here. She can be reached at: or follower her on Twitter: @BoardGuru.

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