How to attract quality board members

6 min read
Dec 14, 2023 9:24:44 AM

Why would someone want to join your Board?

The answer could well depend on the individual, potential Board member and what they are looking to gain or experience from their next Board appointment. However, our research has shown what many people nominating to join Boards are looking for is an opportunity to:

  • Expand their own board experience.
  • Associate with and learn from key decision makers in the community or industry.
  • Share their knowledge and understanding of the industry demographic.
  • Join a collaborative group/Board and expand their networks.
  • Be appreciated for their efforts as a Board director.
  • Contribute to the strategy and future direction of an organisation that they care about.
  • Make a difference.
  • In some way give back to the community / profession or industry.

Just as there are Employers of Choice in today’s competitive marketplace, let’s look at what it would take to make your Board a Board of Choice. And being a Board of Choice, your Board would be regularly approached by potential directors wanting to join your Board. They would seek you out rather than you searching for them.

How to determine if you're a Board of Choice

1. What attributes are on your wish list?

Many Boards have a wish list of Board members they are wanting to attract. And the strong Boards even have a plan how they are going to network with those wish list individuals and hopefully recruit them to their Board. Whilst other Boards, scramble madly in the weeks prior to their AGM knowing they will have to fill a number of vacancies after their AGM resignations. And often come up empty handed leaving important Board positions vacant for months on end. As a Board of Choice, you will have a list of potential Board members at the ready. Which Board are you?

2. Is your organisation financially sound?

Any potential Board member has the right to ask to confidentially review the recent financials, audited annual report for the last few years, current strategic plan, etc. as well as informally meet the current Board of Directors. No director wants to be aligned with a failing organisation and everyone has the right to decline your invitation to join your Board of Directors without actually giving you a reason.

Learn more: How to achieve a high-performing board

3. How is your Board perceived in your industry/profession?

This would also be linked to how your organisation is perceived in the marketplace. Has your organisation received recognition for its achievements by way of nominations for industry or community awards or winning awards? Did the organisation capitalise on these awards media-wise? Although this might sound operational, part of a 2-year strategic focus could be a concerted effort to nominate and apply for awards relevant to your organisation. If you never ask the question, the answer is always no. If you never apply for an award, you can never hope to win it. If organisation profile building via awards is not on the strategic plan, it will not be a priority.

Remember, it is very hard to attract quality Board members if no one has heard of your organisation or what it is that you do. Today with the variety of organisation’s business names that have no relevance to the product or service they offer, public and brand awareness is important. The Top 100 Companies work hard to remain in that list and your organisation may not even be in the Top 1,000 Companies, however, perception is everything. Today more than ever, an organisation can take years to build a strong reputation, only to lose it literally in minutes.

a row of office chairs one is vacant for a new board member

4. Understand poor reputations can be restored

Accountability is the first step in restoring your organisation’s reputation. ‘We stuffed up. We made the wrong call. We have fixed the situation. We apologise for the inconvenience’. These are refreshing words when they are shared at an AGM or within the media. And with a 24/7 news cycle, the marketplace has often moved on to the next scandal or disaster within 48 hours, thankfully. That doesn’t let the Board off the hook, it just gives you breathing space to collectively create a plan to fix the problem and your organisation’s and consequently the Board’s reputation.

5. Identify if a current Board member has brought shame or disrepute to themselves, and as a consequence potentially to the Board and the organisation

Hopefully your Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics has a clause to cover most situations. Ideally, the Board director will choose to resign from the Board. Your organisation’s reputation is everything and the flow on to the Board’s reputation cannot be underestimated.

Learn more: 7 traits of future directors

6. What are you doing for your local community?

As a national organisation, your reach may be territory and/or statewide. As a Board it is worth considering the importance of annually allocating resources to your preferred local community initiative. It is not about ticking a box or making a token donation. A decade ago, it was called Corporate Social Responsibility, and this phrase has had many iterations since then. Be known as the organisation and consequently the Board, that supports local initiatives and gains return on investment by showing up at relevant launches and events and caring about the project. You don’t need the whole Board attending every event, but you do want to be seen and get known as the Board member/s behind the initiative.

7. As a Board, are you are good at making the tough decisions?

Every Board meeting is filled with many decision making tasks ranging from budget reviews to expansion plans, potential staff cutbacks or downsizing, etc. Some decisions require more information and are postponed other matters are rejected. The last thing you want is ‘group think’, where a more vocal member of the Board declares their preference and other quieter member agree, rather than express an opposing view. Letting a CEO go or quite bluntly sacking them, due to inappropriate conduct or poor performance can be hard. Many CEOs have gone on extended ‘garden leave’ nationally and internationally in the last 12 months. Ideally healthy and clear communication between the CEO, the Chair and the Board can avoid most potential problems.

8. Does your Board have a Professional Development Policy and annual Professional Development program for Directors?

Spending quality time with your Board outside the actual Board meetings can be extremely beneficial. Newer Board members often struggle finding their place in the Board and getting to know fellow Board members can take valuable time. Attendance at conferences and events can fast track networking, getting to know each other and potential collaborations with fellow Board members. The more you informally communicate with each other, the faster trust and rapport is built. One or two great ideas heard at a Board related event and acted upon, can have a significant impact on your organisation.

9. How convenient are your Board logistics?

Do you use an online Board portal for increased efficiency and time management? If not, what is your Board doing to research these options? How many meetings do you have annually? Where and when are they held? Are they a combination of online and face to face meetings? How many Board members do you have and how long is it since you considering reviewing Board director numbers? How long since you reviewed your Constitution and/or your Strategic Plan? If you were advertising for potential Board directors, would they potentially be lawyers, accountants, IT experts, real estate agents or maybe medical practitioners? What skill set are you currently missing on your Board of Directors?

Boards of Choice have positive responses to at least 90% of these questions. However, if you and/or your Board is dragging the chain here, it’s time to step up.

Learn how board management software helps to manage your board

Learn more

Committing to the board role

Finally, how you become a potential Board of Choice is ensuring that every Board director is committed to the role they play on the Board, actively participates in their allocated sub-committees and is accountable for their commitment to the Board. They include their Board positions on social media outlets such as LinkedIn and take time to understand the organisation’s potential. Plus they are always on the look out for potential Board members and engage these people in conversations about the pride they take in their Board position.

Most of all, if the Board director was asked the question, “Why did you join the XYZ Board?” they would give a strong, positive, and clear response to that question.

There is no magic formula for becoming a Board of Choice. In many ways the Board of Directors could be compared to the petrol that fuels the motor vehicle or engine. Without a strong, sound, ethical Board the organisation may fail and certainly without fuel, the engine will not run. The next 12 months may be filled with challenges for your Board of Directors and the organisation you represent. However, we know if you address the issues raised in this blog, you will be well on your way to becoming a Board of Choice.

Where to next?

If you're looking for a tool to streamline your Board processes, check out BoardPro - an all-in-one software solution designed specifically for Boards and busy CEOs!

Schedule a demo with our team today and begin to experience a whole new way of meeting.

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