Serving on Boards: Adam Smith, GUAA Coaching Partner

There are many types of boards including corporate, private company, advisory, nonprofit, and community, and there are many factors that come into play in terms of what might motivate professionals to consider joining one. According to a Russell Reynolds Board Survey, top motivators include serving an organization, contributing to society, and advancing personal and professional interests. Not only could you make new friends, develop new areas of expertise, and contribute, but you would also be supporting Georgetown University’s founding principles of promoting intellectual and
ethical understanding, lifelong learning, and responsible and active participation in civic life.

There are many positive and encouraging trends that support pursuing a board appointment. Historically, the target has been retired CEOs and other senior executives with similar profiles including prior public company boardroom experience, lawyers, audit partners and top scientists. All boards are seeking relevant experience in leadership, strategy, finance, M&A, technology, as well as regulatory,
science, and international perspectives. Today, particularly after some highly publicized board upheavals associated with diversity, governance, board performance, and activist investor sieges, there is a greater interest in promoting diversity, younger perspectives, and seeking out a wider range of professional expertise including tech/digital/social media, and new perspectives across geographies, and social and economic backgrounds.

First you must ask yourself some basic questions:
1. Do I have any restrictions or potential conflicts?
2. What are the expectations?
3. What are the risks?
4. Am I up to the demands of the role?
5. Can I make a difference?
6. Am I willing to invest the time and dedication to develop myself as a board director?
7. Have I developed and defined myself enough to rise to the top of the pool?

Whether it is a public or a private company, or a nonprofit, you must identify what makes you unique and valuable, be a constant learner, continue to develop your knowledge base, and make sure that you understand the commitment, the organization that you seek to serve, and the challenges. Serving on a nonprofit board is often the first step in developing board experience; you learn how boards work, you advance to run a committee or become a board chair, and then perhaps you move to a private company
board or serve on an advisory board, and then the large public corporate board often represents a career capstone experience for many professionals.

I encourage to pursue board service. It has been incredibly rewarding for me in my personal and professional growth, and I have made many amazing friendships along the way that endure and I have been repaid for my hard board work many times over.
Evaluate your knowledge, skills, abilities and experience, conduct research to identify possible board opportunities, develop a board bio/resume, continue to develop yourself, consider affiliating with a board focused-organization like NACD or Board Source, and let everyone know that you are pursuing this great opportunity to give back and contribute.

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