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Getting Ready to Serve on a Board


When executives join a board for the first time, one of the biggest challenges they often face is transitioning from a management role to a seat on a board smoothly. The role of the board is not to manage, but it guides and oversees for the long-term. Traditionally, boards followed the “NIFO (noses in, fingers out)” attitude, but this has changed as boards become increasingly involved in the oversight of risk and strategy. 
 
Susan Angele, the senior advisor for the Board Leadership Center of KPMG noted that boards don’t implement management, and rely more on influencing. It’s a challenge to question management on why they chose certain options, or whether they had considered alternative options.  
 
The nominating & governance committee is responsible for looking both outward and inward to assess potential and current directors in order to fill any potential gaps on the board. 
 
Antonio Garza Jr., a board member of Kansas City Southern and MoneyGram International, Inc. views this as critical in terms of ensuring that the oversight of the company is being evaluated. He added that candidates nominated should be evaluated carefully to make sure they’ll help add value to the company and move it towards the implementation of strategies.
 
Boardroom Diversity
Many factors determine the diversity in the boardroom. These include minority representation, gender, skillset and age. Investors are continuously pressurize companies to resolve gaps in board composition. This has led to minority and female representation on boards steadily growing. 
 
When looking at board composition, board skills are also a major focus apart from ethnicity and gender. Companies are increasingly analyzing board skills and board skill matrices are often included in their annual statements. 
 
Tanuja Dehne, a board member for Silver Bay Realty Trust explains that a board should ideally have a diverse mix of backgrounds, business attributes and skills to enable it to make informed decisions, ensuring that fiduciary duties can be carried out properly.
 
What Should Aspiring Board Members Know?
Both current and aspiring board members should understand that holding a seat on a board comes with legal obligations. 
 
Aspiring directors should prepare for board service and determine what type of board they want to join so that they can grow their network strategically. Aspiring directors to should also have a board resume different from their professional resume and cultivate connections that will assist them in gaining insights into what it’s really like to serve on a board.
 
Garza warns that there are a relatively small number of seats on boards. Aspiring board members should therefore be realistic about the seats available, work hard to get noticed by others as a potential member and not be timid when establishing their personal brand.