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Questions to consider before joining a Board

Posted on 5/08/2020 by Matt Adams

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Many organisations are now at the stage where they can now review how effective their board has been in handling their response to the Coronavirus epidemic. Work is underway to review processes and the current make-up of their board ensuring its fit for purpose and that the board is well placed to lead the organisation post-lockdown. This will inevitably mean that there will be many new opportunities to join a board over the coming months.

Earlier in the year, I attended a webinar organised by NEDonBoard which looked at how to become an effective NED. There was some great content shared in the session, particularly useful to those considering joining a board as a Trustee or Non-Executive Director for the first time. Here are some of the classic mistakes that can be made in your search/decision making process:

- Considering a NED role purely on the basis that it will be a nice add-on to the CV. These are company director roles with legal responsibilities that need to be considered and understood before accepting an appointment.

- Underestimating the importance of, and time required for networking. You must not underestimate the power of networking off and online (use social media, emails, or various directories, engage in workshops, and events). You should be active, not just reactive to ensure that you get the right opportunity for you. You need to be on people’s radar.

- Using your current executive CV.  You must adapt your CV for board applications. Showcase your experience, skills, and expertise as well as demonstrating what you will bring to the board. Make sure to highlight any other voluntary roles as it will demonstrate how passionate you are about contributing to the sector.

- Underestimating the time required to secure the right role. It could take months to find right opportunity, you need to be patient.

- Taking the first role that comes up. It’s nice to be wanted, but you need to carefully assess the opportunities presented to you. Is it the right role? Can you add value? Are you aligned with the corporate mission and values of the organisation? Do you see yourself working with the current board? Do their expectations in terms of the time required match your capacity?

- Ignoring advisory board opportunities. Consider advisory board opportunities as well as NED’s sub-committees as a good way to contribute, develop your governance experience, and get your foot in the door to join a board.

- Never underestimate the time commitment to fulfil your responsibilities. This isn’t just about going to a few meetings a year, the current situation with the pandemic has meant that many Trustees have had to attend numerous emergency meetings to protect the organisations they serve. The CEO could also resign for example, and this would mean you will be responsible for the recruitment and selection process of a new hire. Make sure you have enough capacity to deal with the unexpected!

- The importance of protecting your reputation. Charities face a lot of scrutiny from the media, politicians, and the general public. If things go wrong, you will be handling the situation which could impact you directly, it’s therefore recommended to invest in ongoing professional development to protect your reputation. You need to understand the importance of professional development and train while you’re looking to secure your first NED role or if you are a Trustee. Ideally, be part of a network that looks at best practices and how to do things in the boardroom to be better at what you do and to be more influential.

Having considered these points, there are then some key tips for finding the ideal Trustee role:

  • Define your USP, as it’s a competitive market, (especially as people aren’t waiting to retire to join a board). So think of what specific skills and experience you offer and what network or connections might be useful to bring to the organisation (without necessarily needing a little black book!).

  • Understand the organisation’s requirements. Your USP needs to match the criteria established by the nominations committee: what skills & expertise do you bring.

  • Expand your network more generally

  • Be proactive in your search. Networking to expand your contacts and connect with executive search firms who have a board practice like TPP Recruitment.

I hope that this will help you in your search for either your first or next Trustee role.

If you need any advice on this or would just like to discuss any of the above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Lisa or Matt on 020 7198 6040 or