How do I build my board career?

Becoming a director for most individuals is a conscious decision based on their belief they can add value in the boardroom. Yet for many, getting started as a director is a difficult and time-consuming process.

Many directors may be in the early stages of their director career but have come from highly successful corporate or business backgrounds. Often they have been right at the top in CEO, partner or business owner positions and are now faced with being told they do not have the experience needed in a boardroom environment.

When it comes to finding board positions there are a number of things you can do to increase your opportunities and make you a more desirable candidate.

Although boards are often looking for experienced directors, they’re also looking for people with:

  • a proven track record in business
  • a good reputation
  • an ability to contribute strongly in the boardroom
  • diversity of skills.

Directors need to be team players, have an eye toward long-term planning and be persuasive. They need to be able to challenge the decisions being made around the table and add a different perspective.


Connect

Building an effective network is vital.

When it comes to finding board positions the value of networking and connections with others involved in governance shouldn’t be underestimated.

  • Consider your existing contacts. Make it known that you are seeking board appointments. People who know you in your executive roles will need to recast you in a governance context.
  • Join the Institute of Directors (IoD) and actively participate in branch events and other networking opportunities.
  • Consider offering to speak at a branch event on your area of expertise.
  • Join and attend functions of other respected business organisations such as the chambers of commerce and professional institutes or professional services firms.
  • If you are under 45 years or involved with an SME, there are a number of emerging director groups that offer networking options for younger directors. Check the web to see what is available in your region.
  • Get involved in the organising of any of these events.
  • Seek out experienced directors within your contact base for advice on how they became established as a director.
  • There are a number of social media groups related to governance that are worth joining. The IoD has its own group on LinkedIn, Institute of Directors in New Zealand

What can the IoD do to help?

  • Branch events - Eight branches nationally have a comprehensive programme of events
  • Under 40 - Members and associates aged under 40 years are eligible for a reduced subscription.

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Develop

Commit to life-long learning

The role of a director is a complex one. In an ever-changing environment, it is critical that both directors and senior executives have the knowledge and skills required for sound governance.

Professional development

Attending courses on corporate governance shows your commitment to your chosen pathway and ensures you are up to date with the latest in governance thinking and application. It also provides an opportunity for further contact with others who may be in a situation similar to you. When applying for vacancies, if you have attended a course such as the IoD’s Company Directors’ Course, you will be   better able to demonstrate you have an understanding of the role of director. Through the board simulation exercise you will get a good idea of what it is like to operate in a board situation. You may even decide that a board career is not the one you wish to pursue.

Feedback

If you are already a member of a board, or engage with one regularly in an executive role, take the opportunity to consult with the chair regularly to obtain feedback on your performance in the board environment and areas for improvement. One of the most effective ways of learning and upskilling is to take advice from your chair or more experienced fellow board members.


What can the IoD do to help?

Keep up to date

  • The Four Pillars of Governance Best Practice provides practical guidance on issues that directors encounter in their day-to-day roles.
  • boardroom magazine keeps members informed of relevant national and international matters. It contains articles on governance and other matters concerning directors. boardroom is distributed free to  members.
  • The Governance resources section of this website is regularly updated with articles   and links on the latest corporate governance issues and thinking.

The Governance Leadership Centre (GLC) is the IoD’s research, policy and thought leadership hub. They work with members and the governance sector to enable the IoD to be strategically and critically informed on director issues and to provide high quality information services to IoD members.

Emerging Director Awards – Most branches offer an Emerging Director Award. The successful applicant receives a number of invaluable benefits to help in developing their governance career.

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Build

Looking for a board appointment?

It’s important for you to consider why you’re seeking board positions. Consider your unique skills and what you can bring to a board. This will start to shape the types of boards you might target.

In order to be considered for board appointments you will need to have a successful track record in the professions or in commerce at a senior management level. You will also need  to gain some governance experience. This may often be in the community or not-for-profit sector.

If you’re looking to extend your governance career and are interested in taking on a new board appointment, here are some suggestions for getting started.

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Belong

Driving excellence in governance.

Being a member of the Institute of Directors puts you at the heart of New Zealand’s governance network. While your membership in itself does not guarantee that you will obtain a directorship, access to the various benefits provided by the IoD will assist you in the process.

When you join the IoD, you become part of New Zealand’s largest membership body for governance  professionals. You’ll receive access to comprehensive resources, networking and career development opportunities. The more  active you are with the IoD, the more benefit you will get from your membership.

Chartered Membership pathway

Professionalism is central to the IoD’s mission to inspire and equip people in governance and add value across New Zealand business and society. A commitment to lifelong learning is a fundamental tenet of a profession and an essential part  of IoD membership.

> Find out more about membership criteria including full criteria to move to Chartered Member and Chartered Fellow

Influence and advocacy

The IoD is the leading voice on best practice governance with a range of initiatives and communications designed to raise the quality of governance in New Zealand. The IoD is the only organisation in New Zealand that represents directors’ interests and promotes the value of independent directors. We regularly engage with media and other stakeholders to raise awareness and  understanding.

The Governance Leadership Centre (GLC) also makes submissions to government and regulatory bodies on matters that affect directors or governance in New Zealand.

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Due diligence

Remember, building a board career takes careful consideration of what boards you should include in your portfolio. Not every position is the right one for you and your career.

All directors have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the company. It is a duty that should never be taken lightly. Directors must take an active interest in the corporate governance of the company, act in good faith and be legally compliant.

Due diligence is a two-way street. A good company will have a robust selection process in place. Culture fit is an often used expression to indicate that a good board is carefully created, in which each participant is expected to bring skill, experience and energy. Just as you would expect a board to apply due process, so should you do your due diligence on the organisation whose board you are considering joining.

First, check your legal eligibility and statutory restrictions on appointments. These are contained within the Companies Act 1993.

The Due diligence in the IoD’s The Four Pillars of Governance Best Practice provides valuable guidance. In essence, due diligence should enable you to make two basic assessments:

  • whether you are personally suitable for the position, and
  • whether the company is suitable for you.

Personal suitability revolves around motivation, skills and experience, time commitment and whether there are any conflicts of interest and, if so, how well these can be managed.

With respect to company suitability, the company’s financial position, board capability and operations are significant. Don’t rely on verbal assurances but make your own investigations based on the documentation available. This should indicate the financial situation of the company and its strategic plans. The likelihood of achieving board and individual effectiveness will be much enhanced as a result.