What to Do Before Joining a Board

You’ve received that coveted invitation that perhaps you’ve been waiting on. The CEO or Board Chair of an organization has reached out to invite you to join their board. A board of directors provides governance and guides business operations for organizations, strategizing and holding them accountable for reaching their goals. 

The role of most boards is to provide governance and fiduciary oversight, not team management. It’s worth noting that this is a common conflictual pain point for most boards. While joining a board can certainly enhance your personal brand and provide professional growth opportunities, many people do it because they believe in a particular business’ mission or its extraordinary potential. 

If you’re thinking about bringing your abilities to a board, it’s important to consider a few things upfront. Below are things to consider (and do) before joining a board:  

Things to Do Before Joining a Board

1. Educate yourself and choose wisely.

Put in some serious leg work to better understand the ins and outs of any board (private or public) you’d like to join. Research things like policies, annual reports, tax filing, and bylaws. Contact a current board member and ask if they’d be open to meet and discuss their experiences with you. 

Ask how the board is structured, how involved members are, what’s the financial health of the organization, whether there is a system of checks and balances, how long are term limits, and whether you’ll be expected to make a financial contribution.

2. Develop a board bio without overthinking it. 

Don’t let the pressure of creating the perfect board bio hijack your time or cause you to freeze up. Keep it short and succinct, like an introduction. Be sure to include your value proposition, describe how you’re suited to support this particular brand through corporate governance, and include relevant career highlights, education, credentials, and competencies like strategic thinking, financial literacy, and leadership.

3. Prepare for a board interview.

Just like with any job interview, preparation is key. Before you go in, you should have a deep understanding of the organization, its goals, products, services, consumers, competitors, and successes. Also, know who currently sits on the board. Be informed and inquisitive, not afraid to ask relevant questions.

4. Be curious and ask questions.

Asking questions is a great opportunity to get information, but it’s also an indication of your own interest, passion, and curiosities. For instance, you might ask what Committees comprise the Board and how does each contribute to the mission and business of the company? 

Are there any points of tension? What are future prospects? Who are significant investors? What kinds of challenges or risks do they deal with? How often are board meetings held and where do they take place? What are their expectations of you?

Being a Board Member

Boards play a critical role in the trajectory of an organization. Serving is a great way to further develop your own reputation but it’s also an opportunity to strengthen the brand of the business you feel passionate about. Just remember to do your due diligence before joining a board.