How CIOs and technology executives can create a roadmap for finding board opportunities, by board consultant, Tracy Houston.

Guest blog by Tracy E. Houston, M.A., Board Consultant and Executive Coach

Tracy Houston, Board ConsultantWe live in times of uncertainty and challenge. Never has it been more critical for directors and officers to be capable of leading in the boardroom. The demand for strong board leadership comes at a time when executive recruiting firms are gearing up for the biggest exit of board members in American history.

However, the increasing obligations of board service make it tougher than ever to recruit qualified directors. In the face of fierce public scrutiny and questions of potential liability, willing and qualified director candidates are growing ever more selective about the opportunities they entertain.

And who better to help populate these committees than IT executives such as CIO and CTOs? As a board advisory consultant, I am confident that best-in-class IT professionals are the next generation of board members who will help define the future of corporate growth.

Now is the opportune time for IT executives to position themselves as candidates for board service. If you are a technology leader, this can be a significant career stepping stone. So, how exactly will you create your roadmap for developing board opportunities?

Step One: Create Your Value Proposition

What is your value proposition? Do you have it written out in 3- 4 sentence? Do you bring that focus and input into conversations at defining moments? For example, are you "a CIO who has transformed IT from a back-office corporate cost center to business enabler and strategic differentiator?"

Today, businesses create value where strategy intersects with technology and innovation. You must see yourself and present yourself as a critical player at that intersection. Who else in the organization is more qualified than the CIO to add value in a company’s strategic direction?

Being purposeful about your value proposition will help you overcome challenges you are likely to face along the way. Some of your peers will not change the way they perceive you or your role overnight. Whether it is underrating the importance of IT or feeling threated by the change that IT represents, in some cases there will be resistance.

Step Two: Become a Strategic Partner

Once you have the foundation of a value proposition in place, the next step you can take is to evolve your value proposition into a boundary spanning campaign. You can identify key stakeholders in the organization and begin to be an influencer within projects that involve those people.

To prepare for the role of a strategic partner means you must take a heads up approach to your work. Don’t get caught up in meeting the daily work load. To accomplish this, you will need to have a professional development plan with a boundary spanning focus. You must think ‘big picture’ and hold a personal vision for yourself and your role in the organization.

Step Three: Develop A Comprehensive Networking Plan

Develop a networking plan that includes learning about boards and how directors bring value to their role. List key individuals such as directors, C-suite executives and corporate governance organizations to join for network development. Meet with directors, C-suite executives, executive search firms, venture capitalist, attorneys and others to explore what board service might mean for you, what leadership competencies you might bring to the boardroom, and what types of boards might find those competencies attractive. These conversations may lead to opportunities, but the goal of these meetings is to gain as much information as possible about the world of boards.

From these interviews you should gather some concrete direction on the type of boards that would be the best fit for you. Factors may include industry, company size (micro, small, medium and larger cap) and any adjacent markets. The insights you gain from the interviews will also inform your board resume and bio.

You can now begin a list of potential companies to gain a board seat. Review and prioritize the list by looking at the current board of directors and their skills base. If you have a solid understanding of the company's future challenges, you can identify exactly how you will add value to the board based on the strenghts (and gaps) that exist in the current board.

Important Note:  Patience is a key factor in gaining a board seat; recruiters say it takes on average 12- 24 months for a board candidate to gain their first public board seat.

Tracy E. Houston, M.A., is the President of Board Resources Services, LLC. She is a  specialist in board consulting and executive coaching with a heartfelt passion for rethinking performance, teams, and the boardroom. She is the author of the eBook, Becoming a Public Company Director. For more information visit: or you can follow her on twitter: @BoardGuru


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