Action – The Missing Ingredient

This has been an interesting year in my board mentoring practice. Reviewing the calendar for 2019 I have chalked up an unprecedented number of one-on-one mentoring sessions. If I told you the number of actual sessions I have conducted you probably wouldn’t believe me, we run a pretty significant operation here at Director Institute and mentoring thousands of aspiring and current board directors is par for the course each year.

However this year was different for me, it was much harder than previous years. Some days it felt like walking through mud. Clients where directionless, goal-less and got onto mentoring calls without any clear idea of what they wanted to talk about. The call would often start with the pleasantries “Hi I just wanted to touch base with you” and often didn’t go much deeper without my intervention. Typically clients just wanted a shot in the arm, someone to give them a pep talk, guidance and to build a road-map for success in securing board roles. For coaches and mentors out there, you will be very familiar with these types of coaching sessions. Client develops goals and a road-map for success at the start of the program and then falls off the bandwagon and needs help getting back on track.

Lacking Clear Goals. But what struck me this year is the very small percentage of clients who actually had their act together. By which I mean, they started the year with clear goals for success and actually set about achieving those goals, with clearly defined strategies and actions that needed to be implemented to achieve results. I hate to say this but I think the number of people who you could put in this category was less than 10%. Gosh how can this be? Why are educated, smart, ambitious and in most cases people who have achieved some degree of success in life not clear about their goals, where they are heading and how to get there? Have we lost the art of goal setting and taking the steps necessary to achieve results?

Action Missing Ingredient. I think the reason for non achievement of goals is lack of action. It was the missing ingredient in every single call that I had this year. It some cases clients demonstrated wishful thinking i.e. I want to secure a paid board role. In other cases clients felt that they were in action when they proudly declared that they had a board resume completed and had done some board director training. This is the equivalent of telling someone you want to lose weight and all you did was put on a pair of Nike runners. The action is missing and without it no true success can be achieved. So before you start setting your Board Career goals for 2020, review my Top 3 tips for success.

Tip # 1. Get Clear on Your Board Career Goals. Write them down. Be specific. Remember board careers are incremental, you don’t start on an ASX50 board, and you don’t typically start earning $60,000 per board seat. Frame your goal very carefully and with intention.

Example: I will secure my first board appointment by Easter 2020. I want to join the board of a well funded, recognised national Not For Profit, ideally one of my Top 20 charities that I am closely tracking, with a focus on helping children from disadvantaged backgrounds in a practical and meaningful way.

The more specific you can be the better. Most clients have vague non-specific aspirations, you must get crystal clear on what you want to achieve and set clear goals including timing, type of organisation and other parameters. Only set 3 goals for the year in reference to your board career. Multiple goals can be a distraction, I believe it is better to set a manageable number of goals and achieve these versus a long wish list of wannabe goals. Each week review your goals, review your strategy & action plan, and make adjustments. If you over-achieve you can add another goal into the mix and set your sights on another board role. If you are not getting results, you need to re-calibrate and take steps to correct your course.

Tip # 2. Build Your Strategy & Action Plan. Your strategy will involve outlining the road-map and specific steps you need to take to achieve your goal. In the case of the Not For Profit example, you will start to map out suitable boards, develop a realistic target list of organisations that you could contribute to and be clear as to how and why you could help the board of directors. Unless there is a complete alignment between your value proposition and the board, the likelihood of board roles being secured are very low. Develop your value proposition and personal branding materials to support this pathway. Your strategy might be focused on getting connected to the right people who can introduce you to key influential board members, your strategy might be to volunteer at the organisation you are targeting or to come up with a clever way to add value to the organisation via fundraising.

Tip #3. Get Into Action. This is the key – getting into action. Going beyond just getting a board resume written, going beyond just hoping or wishing you could get on board. Going further than just waiting for a role to appear or for someone else to help you. This is the hard part – this is where most will fail. This is where you truly get to out run your competition. Every week you will undertake specific actions to achieve your goal. For example, you will leverage your target list of boards and start to follow these organisations on LinkedIn and set up Google alerts so you read anything that appears in the press, you will subscribe to their website and marketing materials, you will become a donor so you can review their marketing strategy, you will download their annual report, you will immerse yourself in their world prior to looking for ways to connect with key board members and executive directors. Become a mystery shopping, formulate your thoughts and ideas on how the organisation is performing. Think about what challenges the board might be dealing with in the boardroom – make some educated guesses – are they dealing with funding issues, are they thinking about mergers with other groups, are they achieving financial results? You will look for ways to volunteer or support the organisation in some way. You will look for ways to demonstrate your value proposition to the board. Action will also mean putting a high emphasis on networking and getting close to the target organisation, this is how many top board opportunities are uncovered versus waiting for a job role to appear on a job board. This is a passive approach, you need to be proactive, go the extra mile to secure top quality board roles. But here is the rub, are you truly prepared to get into action in 2020? If you are, then amazing results await the aspiring board director candidate who wants to kick start their board career. Come join us!

Director Institute Next Generation Directors is a private enterprise that is focused on developing and connecting the next generation of board directors with Australian and International organisations and boards.

Members have access to one-on-one advice, mentoring, peer-to-peer education and business networking opportunities as well as exclusive board opportunities available no-where else in the market. Our easy to navigate resource centre provides members with regularly updated articles, how-to guides, opinion pieces, videos and webinars as well as thought-leadership from some of the world’s most respected authorities on board, leadership and management practices. Are You a Next Generation Director interested in pursuing a Board Career in 2020, take advantage of Director Institute’s mentoring, eLearning, business networking events and exclusive services. 

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