Serving on boards is also something I recommend to other business leaders. Whether you’re a veteran, an entrepreneur or just beginning your professional career, know that you’ll enjoy many benefits related to your board activity. The obvious one is that you get to be involved with a company or organization whose mission you support, but there are others, like having the opportunity to expand your network of contacts. That’s always a good thing.
Board experience can also help you move up the ladder in your career. In fact, a study by Harvard Business Review found that board involvement provided executives with an increased likelihood of getting promoted, receiving salary increases and even becoming a CEO.
Here’s why: holding a seat on one or more boards will increase your visibility while also giving you access to new learning opportunities and important contacts. The key is to find an organization about which you feel strongly. Some people join boards to support a cause; others to lend their expertise and experience to a company they believe is doing important work. The good news is that if you look around right now, you’ll quickly find many organizations that appeal to your interests and will welcome your involvement.
Being a board member benefits both you and the organization. You benefit for the reasons I mentioned above, and the organization benefits from the skills and experience you bring. As a board member, you have a hand in steering the ship, weighing in on decisions and providing valuable advice and counsel to executive leadership.
A major benefit for the individual is how much your leadership and personal skills will be enhanced by the experience. If you’re just starting out, you’ll learn how to plan and organize effective meetings, create agendas, debate important issues in a civil manner, negotiate with others, and improve your ability to communicate with fellow business professionals at all levels. It’s really helpful because these are skills that will continue to serve you well throughout your career, especially in leadership roles.
You’ll also have the opportunity to observe how other leaders tackle problems and how they carry out certain tasks. At the same time, the experience will enable you to identify certain characteristics that you admire in other board members, and even “mirror” them or incorporate them into your own leadership style.
This leads to another point. If you’re a new or young executive, consider your board involvement a wonderful opportunity to develop personal relationships with your fellow board members. Doing this can help you increase your understanding of different industries, companies and markets. You can then apply your board-level perspective as you lead initiatives at your own company.
All this said, the most important benefit of sitting on a board is that it allows you to make a difference by playing a key role in the success of a company or nonprofit while at the same time, addressing an issue that is meaningful to you.
So take a few moments and explore what board opportunities might exist in your region. Determine whom you might know who already sits on a board and ask him or her if additional members are needed. You can also visit a nonprofit organization’s website and review the board member list to learn who is currently on it. You might find the name of someone with whom you’d like to meet or with whom it might be beneficial to network. The opportunities are there. It’s up to you to take action.