Articulate your way to a Board Seat with a powerful Board Value Position

Articulate Board Value Position

There are 3 pillars aspiring board directors need to focus on to gain a board seat: Aspiration, Articulation and Application. If you get any of them wrong, your commitment and best-laid plans will only lead to a journey of frustration and often failure. In this article, I will focus on articulation; it all starts with a powerful Board Value Position (BVP).

Know YOUR Board Value Position (BVP)

Boards comprise members with diverse skills and experience, cultures, gender, ethnicity and age. Your board value position should clearly articulate the individual value you can bring and how you can make a positive impact on a board’s goals. It is YOUR unique set of skills and experience that you can offer boards and the organizations they serve. It should also set you apart from the other candidates competing for a board seat.

Your BVP also includes your knowledge, influence (or connections), and leadership skills. Boards have responsibilities, and directors require knowledge to make sounds decision. Boards also seek directors to fill gaps in the board’s overall knowledge. Your influence must have reach within the board, the organization and external parties. Lastly, board directors must be able to demonstrate strong leadership. They must ask the right questions, make tough decisions, provide direction, and take charge in difficult times.

Articulating your Board Value Position

Once you know your Board Value Position, you must be able to articulate it formally and informally, verbally and on paper. Essentially you need to be able to answer at any time and in any scenario, “Why do you want to be on their board?” or “Why do you want to be an independent board director?”.

I refer a lot to the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). Cognitive biases such as the FAE result in biases in making first impressions and decision-making. The theory suggests that people develop a general impression of other’s characters based on limited pieces of a situation, not seeing the whole picture. By default, our brains revert to making judgements based on limited information.

To avoid FAE, you must clearly articulate your Board Value Position. Don’t give people a chance to make biased assumptions. Ensure that the people you speak to, or read your board application, are left with no doubt that you are a potential board member.

The various ways to articulate your way to a board seat

There are various scenarios and documents that provide a platform for you to articulate your way to a board seat. Some formal, informal, some verbal and some written. None of them alone will result in success. You need to articulate your board value position, and variations, across all these instances.

Board Profile

Your Boad Profile is essentially a formal summary of your BVP.  The 5-6 sentence statement will address the five (5) core elements that chairs of decision-makers want to see in successful board candidates. They are prior governance experience, executive skills, networks and connections, passion and cultural fit. There are several other elements to consider: industry experience, governance qualifications and diversity.

Board CV

The framework of your board CV is an extension of  BVP. Your Board Profile should be right at the beginning, which clearly summarizes your BVP. The remaining content provides the supporting details, including your executive experience & roles, evidence of your successes, all your board & committee experience, formal qualifications and memberships.

LinkedIn Profile

When articulating your way to a board seat, your LinkedIn Profile is critical but often overlooked by aspiring board directors. People commit a lot of time crafting their LinkedIn Profiles to articulate their value as an executive but fail to articulate their value as a board director or potential board director.

Articulating your BVP in your LinkedIn profile is critical for several reasons:

    • It tells people in your network that are looking for a board seat. Remember, the FAE, don’t allow them to make biased assumptions about you.
    • Organizations and recruiters use LinkedIn to find suitable board candidates. They will not find you if your LinkedIn profile does not articulate your BVP.
    • It complements and corroborates what you present in your board CV and board cover letters.

Board Cover Letter

The board cover letter is where you must customize your BVP to address all the critical selection criteria and your suitability for the board role. A strong BVP and well-constructed board cover letter will separate you from the competition and articulate your way to a board seat.

Board Pitch – That water cooler moment

You must be able to articulate your board value proposition in a 30- second-or-less elevator pitch. Suppose you are pitching in an informal setting (at the water cooler) or a formal one (in a call with a recruiter). You must include your specific expertise, skillsets, industry leadership and what makes you different. It needs to be brief, concise, but of all things memorable. They need to be able to peg you as a competent board executive, and if they have or know of an opportunity, they will want to know more. To articulate your way to a board seat, you must be your board elevator pitch down pat.

Board Interview

If all is going well, you will be invited to attend a board interview. This is not the time to fail with articulating your BVP. If you have made it this far, you and most likely all the other shortlisted candidates have ticked off all or most of the selection criteria. Identifying and articulating the unique value that you bring to the board is more critical than ever. Board interview preparation that includes comprehensive research will not only demonstrate your level of commitment but will provide unique opportunities to articulate your value.

When articulating motivation is important

You must be careful and thoughtful when articulating your motivations for being or wanting to be a board director. Such as answering the inevitable questions, “Why do you want to be an independent board director” or “why do you want to serve on our board?’.

Like many, I suspect you will tell them about your personal motivations for serving on a board and why you like their company. A typical response is, “I am semi-retired and have too much time on my hands. I thought your organization would be a good fit”.

I constantly see people spending too much time focusing on why they should be appointed to a board and not enough time considering the motivations for the Chair to appoint you. Boards and Chairs are passionate about the organizations and cause they represent. Although true, articulating your personal motivations may display a lack of passion for the organization, a lack of understanding of the board and its role, and a lack of commitment to the responsibilities and demands of an independent board director.

Final articulation advice

    • To articulate your way to a board seat, you MUST know your Board Value Position and be able to pitch it confidently. It will take time to get right, and for most of you, it will require practice.
    • Once confident, tell people! You never know who they are connected with or what opportunities they have access to.
    • There is no such thing as a static board profile or board pitch. Whilst your core BVP will remain the same, what you articulate should be customized for the situation and organization.
    • Always be prepared with a 30-second elevator pitch.
    • If you are struggling with your Board Value Position, board profile or board CV. We are here to help. Our Board Appointment Coaching Program PLUS membership package includes a personal board profile and board CV writing service. We will also review every board application before you submit it to give you the best chance to articulate your way to a board seat.

Related Articles

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A Board CV: should I write one?

How to use LinkedIn to get on a Board

Research can help you get on a board

About the Author

David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Appointments. He has over a decade of experience in putting people on boards as an international headhunter and recruiter. He has interviewed hundreds of directors and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP director roles in the world.

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