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  • Anneli Knight
    Smarter Writer

    Anneli Knight is a journalist, writer and academic with a background in law and finance. She lives in Byron Bay

    Anneli Knight
    Smarter Writer

    Anneli Knight is a journalist, writer and academic with a background in law and finance. She lives in Byron Bay

    Being on a board can bring huge benefits and also has significant responsibilities, but best of all it brings you the one thing that all business owners need to thrive: Networks. Here’s what you can do to increase your chances of landing a board role.

    Helen Wiseman is the director of five different boards as well as being co-founder to financial services group Imalia, aimed at developing financial products that particularly suit the needs of busy women.

    Helen says her involvement on multiple boards has given a strong foundation for running her own business: from understanding, designing and implementing strategy, and engaging key stakeholders; to risk mitigation and management processes.

    “The people you meet, the things you learn – they all add to the development of your small business,” says Helen.

    Colourful board room
    Exposing myself to as wide a variety of situations as possible means I’m a more effective business woman.

    Helen Wiseman, Imalia

    Instilling confidence to take action

    Dr Jess Murphy is a strategy consultant and has developed a program, Pathway to Your Potential, that improves confidence and capabilities for people preparing for board positions.

    “There are great opportunities for people to develop themselves and get that context [from a board position], so when they’re in their own business, they can put those insights and learnings into practice,” says Jess.

    “There is privilege associated with being a board member, but also responsibility and an investment of time. It is a trade-off.”

    Do you want to be appointed to a board? Read Jess’s top five tips to get you there. 

    1. Self-awareness: know your unique offering

    It’s a competitive process so you need to know your unique qualities that make you stand out from other candidates.

    You need to have answers for these questions:

    • What are your unique skills, experience and insight that you bring, and why would you be the best candidate?
    • What gaps do you fill in terms of the board’s existing composition?

    2. Make sure you’ve got as much EQ as IQ

    You should invest as much in up-skilling your behavioural skills as your technical skills. To build your opportunities as a strong candidate, you need to develop a credible voice and language of the boardroom. Do this by connecting with existing board members to build your understanding of boardroom dynamics and language, and make sure you understand unwritten rules and subtle undercurrents.

    3. Network, network, network

    The difference between where you are today and where you’ll be next year is what you can do, who you know and who knows you. Once you’re clear on the value you can add, look at people in your network, as well as people in your network’s network to make relevant connections. Consider joining associations and industry groups, and don’t forget that social media is a great way to spread the word that you are looking for board opportunities.

    4. Create and refine your board CV

    Invest time and effort to develop your own board CV, which should be very different from job and executive CVs. Clearly articulate why you should have the seat at the table and position the value that you will add. You need to be able to demonstrate your ability to think like a board member, so if you’ve been a sole trader, show that you can work strategically versus operationally, and collegiately versus being your own boss or key decision maker.

    5. Be confident to say, ‘no, thank you’

    Your board positions relate directly to your personal brand and reputation, so choose carefully. You should probably say no a few times before you actually say yes, and that’s a good thing. Do due diligence: becoming a director has significant responsibilities. Make sure the company is operating to the highest standards, that it complies with all legislation and know its financial position. Assess the management: are they competent? Are their values aligned with the company, and with your own values? Consider the dynamics: will you be able to enjoy and learn, and will your contributions be valued? 

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