(Originally appeared in the December 20th, 2021 'Across the Board' digital publication, a Board Director, Board Advisor, C-Level, and Business Leader publication reaching 27,500+ exceptional business leaders in over 70 countries with articles focused on leadership, strategy, and governance topics - sign up here)
It has been an incredibly busy year in the Board vertical with a significant number of global organizations creating, rebuilding, and more deeply evaluating their Boards. A few first-hand witnessed standouts include a significant number of public company Boards adopting the principle of not only performing their yearly Director evaluations but preceding this exercise with an overall Board Architecture Assessment (BAA) to identify gaps across a wider array of measurement points.
Additionally, the number of pre-IPO Board builds around the world seems to have exploded in 2021, likely setting up 2022 for a significant amount of public listing activity. On the pre-IPO topic, it is worth additionally mentioning the positive trend of many organizations aiming to have their fully-compliant and operationally-effective Boards up and running prior to IPO launch, essentially not waiting on the allowed post-listing grace periods to reach a majority of Independent Directors, meet Director diversity requirements, and confirm fully independent Audit, Compensation, and Nominating & Governance Committees. This can greatly help organizations' performance within their first year of being publicly listed as Board makeup distractions are already addressed, allowing the Board to focus on pressing governance and strategy issues.
All of this Board activity seems to have directly increased the number of Board Director opportunities throughout 2021, with signs this will continue through 2022 - indeed a great indicator for both aspiring and experienced Directors to land the Board seats they desire. However, some persistent problems remain with Board candidate packaging, branding, and interview decorum that is greatly limiting candidates' ability to not only gracefully progress through Nominating Committee processes, but also hinder a positive impression from the onset of the candidate engagement.
To help in laying the groundwork for the following considerations, know that many of the clients I advise on Board Architecture additionally ask for my assistance to create their Nominating Committee processes, provide trusted recommendations for viable Board candidates, and liaise with numerous search / placement organizations to ensure a robust pool of expertise and experience to choose from. In 2022 alone, this manifested into thousands of Board candidate vetting reviews and countless candidate interviews.
With this volume, it is quite easy to identify trends which inhibit a Board candidate at various stages of the process. Know that these challenges are not isolated problems solely afflicting aspiring Directors, as many self-proclaimed savvy experienced Directors are equally delinquent in their candidate packaging, branding, and interview prowess.
These shortcomings are not only extremely limiting for any potential Director candidate, but also have the ability to label you 'unfit for service' when your name and inappropriate self-representation frequently reappear to evaluators across multiple opportunities (remember that the industry is quite small).
Although there are many trends being witnessed across all entity types and industries, I will make the commitment to not overwhelm you during this holiday season! I would, however, like to share 3 observations which have become recurring topics of conversation during client candidate debriefs and viability ranking exercises. Here are just a few of the most prevalent that are seemingly entrenched in the system for various reasons - you could actually say they have become chronic:
(for those who follow my writings, I know I touch on this topic frequently. It can't, however, be ignored due to its importance and recurring nature...)
Spend the time to think about how these areas relate to you and what you have been conveying in your Board candidate packaging and interviews. Even with the high volume of available Board opportunities, the amount of candidate submissions have also increased. Avoiding the common self-inflicted elimination elements should be the easy part.
Do you know all of the indicators of effective Board Director candidates?