Do you want to join a corporate board but not sure how? You know you can be a great candidate, but not sure how to get a foot in the boardroom?
If you’d like some expert guidance on exactly how to become a corporate board director, this episode with guest Jean Rush is for you.
In This Episode of The Career Rx We’ll Discuss:
- What transferable skills to highlight on your board bio and how
- The types of programs (formal and informal) available to help get your foot in the door
- Where to find networking opportunities for joining a board
Today is the second part of How to Become A Corporate Board Director with our special guest, Jean Rush. Listen to part 1 here if you haven’t already. Subscribe so you never miss an episode. We talk about exactly how to get those positions on corporate boards that might be for publicly traded companies or private companies, as well as community boards or nonprofit boards.
By the end of this episode, you’ll have a detailed understanding of some specific action steps to go about planning your journey towards securing a spot on the board.
“I think so many of us underappreciate our transferable skills, especially in medicine.” – Marjorie Stiegler
In this Episode:
[1:30] Listen to Part 1 Here
[2:35] There’s a board out there for you
[3:20] Do you understand how your industry works?
[5:15] This comes down to personal preference
[6:30] Adding positions to your resume
[8:30] About board bios and what information they need
[10:00] You are not alone in this
[12:15] A list of core transferable skills – do you have them?
[14:00] Check out the offerings at big business schools
[16:05] Explaining angel investment groups – Golden Seeds
[18:30] There’s formal training out there, just for you
[19:35] You’re going to need a network of contacts
[21:55] The last piece of the puzzle – finding a fit for yourself
[23:00] Is this company or organization something you believe in?
[24:03] Time to start searching for information
[25:05] Sharing is caring, just ask
[26:16] Connect with Jean (links below)
Links and Resources:
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Jean Rush contact information: email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put you in touch!
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Thanks for joining me on this episode of The Career Rx!
TRANSCRIPT: Episode 65 – Becoming a Corporate Board Director [Part 2]
Hey there, I’m Marjorie Stiegler and you’re listening to The Career Rx Podcast, where we tackle the important things they don’t teach you in medical school. Like how to treat your career, like the business it really is, with strategies to accelerate the kind of success that you want, because you deserve a career you love, and a career that loves you back. Are you ready? Let’s get into it.
Hey, everyone, welcome back to The Career Rx. This is part two of my interview with Jean Rush about how to become a corporate board director. Many people think about being a member of the board of directors, for companies. And we’re going to talk today about exactly how to get those positions on corporate boards that might be for publicly traded companies or private companies, as well as community boards or nonprofit boards. But really, the action is in those public and privately traded companies that corporate boards, where Jean is telling us about really a sort of entirely second half of her career that follows her her decades long experience as a C suite professional in the healthcare industry, really, to help us understand what a board does, how you are compensated for board service, which is quite considerable when when you understand that structure, and also what kinds of skills and experience you have you my listeners that are really relevant and may make you a very attractive candidate for that kind of board service.
So we talked about that last week, if you didn’t catch it, I recommend that you go back and listen to that first half of the interview first, and then tune in to this episode, which is the second half of our interview where we’re going to get much, much more into the techniques, the tactics, the strategy for securing a spot on the board. All right, let’s get into it.
Okay, so Jean, we talked briefly about the kinds of skills that add value for a desirable candidate. You talked about, you know, P&L experience and some management experience. But you also did, I think, begin to talk a little bit about how certain people with certain backgrounds who have that subject matter expertise, can bring something to the board. So I think if I’m understanding you correctly, the my physician audience could feel pretty confident that among the 1000s of boards out there, there are going to be some that would be interested in their perspective and experience as a physician, even if they’re not a physician who, you know, became the chair of their department or who otherwise took a leadership role within their enterprise. Is that fair?
It is fair. And several women I know are, in fact, physicians who have landed board roles. They had a variety of corporate roles prior to that, but not C suite type of roles. But they have landed some wonderful opportunities on various boards. So I think the thing to think about in terms of preparing for board service is really to reflect on your career, and what your areas of expertise are. So you know, do you understand how the pharmaceutical industry works, or ambulatory surgery centers or urgent care centers? Do you understand the group purchasing process within a large delivery system, how durable medical equipment works, those are all various topics that are found with in companies that are that are looking for boards, and they’re going to be looking for some people who bring financial acumen to the table, they’re going to be looking for different people who may bring C suite experience or payer experience, but they may also be looking for that clinical knowledge or that domain knowledge in one of those particular medical specialties.
And so as you begin your search, one of the things that you’ll want to do through your networking is just to ask people that you know, colleagues within your your own network,who else you should talk to, because you’re going to be casting a very broad and wide net, in the hopes that what you’ll be able to do is connect what you’re looking for, with a board opportunity that is seeking what you bring to the table.
And it’s not as much of a needle in a haystack as it might sound, but it does require putting in some effort and sort of extending yourself and, and spending time talking to people in your network, people that your network recommends. You know, sometimes you can go three, four or five connections deep before you find that person who is actually going to help you get on a board but it’s worth the effort.
Absolutely. And so speaking of that, and then networking and sort of putting yourself out there, here’s a question that I was thinking about. I jotted this down as my own notes, because I realized that I wasn’t sure what sort of the standard is. So when I think about my title on my little nonprofits as a board director, it’s just director. So if you were to put that on LinkedIn or something, for example, on your CV, is that how you would say it, you know, director, comma, and then the organization? Or would you say, member of the board? Or would you say, board director or board member, or what’s the right terminology there?
Actually, I have seen all of those. So it really is a matter of preference. Some people say board member, others say member of the board of directors of the board of managers, and some people just use the director title. So they’re all equally used in the marketplace. And I don’t think anyone is preferable to the other.
That’s great. That’s great to know. Because this is the kind of thing that I think, because it’s not, especially the volunteer ones in the community, nonprofits, because they might be completely uncompensated. I think people don’t think of them as jobs, therefore, then they don’t put them on the resume, or they put them under committee service or someplace where it might not be seen with the visibility that it might deserve, as they’re trying to continue to grow that area of their career to take that as a stepping stone in direction.
And I agree, and I think for people who are looking to, to attain a board position, I would actually recommend on your resume, putting in a whole section that’s just called board service. And include those charitable boards, even though they’re not equivalent to a corporate board. They’re more of a stepping stone, but it shows that you’ve taken the initiative to get on board, and that you have some experience, some general experience and exposure to how boards operate. So what I did is I actually called through my background, and pulled out all those charitable boards. And in my case, I was also on some corporate boards. So they were corporate boards that were part of my actually compensated position as an executive. So they weren’t separate and distinct. They were just part of my role. But I also called those out and highlighted them, because it’s a starting point.
But then the other thing this sort of segues into is, you know, the documentation that you use for a board search. So throughout our career, we’re so conditioned to write a resume, that’s what we do, or a CV. And actually, for board searches, it’s a little bit different on what you actually write as a board bio. And it’s different from a resume in a couple of ways.
One is it doesn’t list every single thing you’ve done. It actually is a summary of your experiences, but really calling out those experiences that would benefit a board of directors. So you’re selective, you’re going to just pull out those things that you’ve done, whether they’re through your day job, whether they’re through volunteer efforts, but highlighting how those are helping to prepare you for board service.
And it’s in a narrative format instead of sort of the dot points that you tend to see in a resume. So that’s one of the first steps in the sort of the journey to a board is taking the time to think through your skills, your background and what you’re looking for. And then drafting off a board bio that you can share with the people that you’re talking to a board bio, that’s an it’s another new thing, I think to make the listening. Sure, as it is many of us are struggling with the idea of going from like a 40 or 5060 page CV.
An industry friendly resume. But now yeah, people who are interested in a board bio that’s, that’s super. And you know, that that, I think is that something that I’ve talked about a fair amount on this podcast, which is the transferable skills that people have, which I think so many of us under appreciate, and especially in medicine, it’s very commonplace for me to hear physician colleagues of mine who are looking for something different. The next chapter, whatever it is, to say things like, well, I don’t have any other skills because I’m just a doctor, which is, you know, always kind of heartbreaking, but also an opportunity to remind people of all of the incredible skills demonstrated skills that they have a just by nature of having gotten where they are so far in their medical career in terms of critical thinking and leadership and work and decision making and data driven analysis and blah, blah. So I can rattle off some that I think doctors have but are there some transferable skills that aren’t really corporate specific, and also aren’t really subject matter specific that that you can think of.
That’s a really good question. And I guess I would start off by saying, one of the things that I think everyone benefits from as you’re thinking about transitioning from your your day job into a board role, is to actually get some help with just exactly what you identify, because I will tell you that physicians are not alone in under clubbing, the skills they bring to the table business, people do it too. And in fact, I belong to an organization called Women Business Leaders and healthcare that actually hosts a board program to help women executives, including physicians, to to find their place on board. And one of the first things that we do in that program, is we work with the attendees to identify those transferable skills, and then try to figure out how to tell the story. So you know, if you sort of freeze and can’t think about transferable skills, I would say the first first thing I would say is, you’re not alone, I think we all went through that process. But it can be very helpful to actually, you know, participate in a formal program, or find a buddy who’s going through the same process as you and use each other as a sounding board.
In the program that I was referencing, what we do after seeing some examples of good BIOS, is we actually work in small groups, and help each other to identify our skills, because sometimes we don’t see it, but other people do. And so we start by making a laundry list of skills, and then work with partners who can help us take that skill and translate it into sort of board language.
And I will tell you, it doesn’t happen overnight. There are several iterations of this process. And in fact, one of the things that we’re looking to do is actually set up a process for helping people to do this, because it isn’t always intuitive. And it does take time. So you know, whether it’s, as you mentioned, before data analytical skills, strategic planning, skills, leadership, you know, leaving a department or leaving a team planning skills, collaboration skills, I mean, those are all things that translate between the clinical world and the world of board service. But you may not always think about those at first blush.
And so spending some time doing a little bit of soul searching, but I would also definitely encourage you to find other people who can help you think it through, because they may see see things that you yourself, don’t see.
I couldn’t agree more. That’s so important. And and even as you’re giving some of those examples, or, or some of the ones that I listed, when you suggest those as topics like Oh, you’re you know, you’re very good at, you know, critical thinking and data driven skills, a lot of people, even if you kind of give them that skill, they can’t identify it in their day to day work. And so it’s not something that they would feel prepared to tell a competency based story around. But if they saw an example of someone else in a small group describing here’s how I have done data driven, they might say, Yes, I’ve done that to actually, you know, they need to see it sort of come to life in an application kind of format.
Absolutely. And I’ll tell you, I struggled with this too, the first time and what helped me was I actually saw some bios from people who had roles that were similar to mine. And that’s exactly what I went through. I thought, oh, done that. Never thought that that would be applicable in a board role. And so it does. It’s one of those things like many things, it takes a village and getting some help in small groups or informal programs can be very beneficial, especially at the beginning stages of the journey.
Absolutely. So you have you just mentioned the tell me WBL is women leading healthcare, right?
Women Business Leaders, yeah, women business leaders in the US healthcare industry. And that’s one group that does this sort of thing. There are others actually, a lot of the business schools, the big business schools like Stanford, Northeastern, Harvard, they all have great programs that not only provide you with a knowledge of how boards operate some of the skills for getting on a board but they also enhance your network of people that you could tap into on your board search as well. And then there are also some sort of industry associations that could help.
So there’s the National Association of Corporate Directors. And the really nice thing about that group is it is National, they have chapters all over the country, they do a lot of work virtually, but you don’t have to be a corporate director to join. So aspiring directors are welcome to join as well. And to either go through some of their formal educational programs, or some of their informal networking programs, in order to get that knowledge to make that first move into the boardroom. For the women of your group, there’s also Women Corporate Directors, the one catch there is that you do have to be a director in order to join that group. So it’s probably not the first one you would join, but certainly something to consider down the road.
And then I would also add, that there is opportunity through angel investing groups. So there are groups of investors that pool their resources, to invest in small companies. And the healthcare space is very, very active right now in angel investing some of those groups. One example is golden seeds that I’ve worked with. They welcome people who are interested in coming in potentially being an investor, but then moving into an advisory board role for some of their startup companies as well. So lots of different avenues to get to the right board opportunity.
That’s really great. And so I want to just take a quick second so that people can find some of these things with ease. So the women business leaders is wbl.org. And as you mentioned, they have a specific program, and that has its own URL, which is www.wblboardprogram.org. It’s all one word. I noticed that when I was scrolling through that, in preparation for our chat today, I see a picture of you right on the front of the 2020. It’s next to 2020 agenda and speakers. But of course, you are on the board of the WTO to write, yeah, full disclosure, I am on their board of directors. Well, who better to be able to speak to the benefits, or at least the intricacies of that program. So I think that’s fantastic.
And I’ve actually participated in the program four years in a row, as both an attendee and as a presenter. So you know, that you learn something new every time you pick up new tips and techniques and ideas for helping you on your search.
I bet I bet. And as I’m looking also, on the website, one of the things that stood out to me is that the AMA, the American Medical Association, yes, corporate partners. So I think my audience might not be too surprised, you know, based on your background, and what you’ve just described that there are a lot of health care companies from a variety of parts of the healthcare delivery system, but that there’s also the AMA, which is classically, physicians organization, right. And then you mentioned the https://www.nacdonline.org/. And I think it’s so interesting that one of the you mentioned, they have like informal programs, other formal programs, and they have this directorship certification, board leadership fellowship, do you know anything? And I’m not sure to what degree you might be involved with their organization. Do you know much about those programs?
Yeah, I am a member I have not yet participated in their formal training programs. But they do have, as you mentioned, two different levels, a directorship and then a leadership role. And then they also offer some specialized training and things like cyber security, because that’s so hot in the board world today. But what they do is they actually offer a formal curriculum that helps you to understand what board service is all about what the different committees do, how to do due diligence and searching for a board position. They cover a wide variety of different topics. And with NACD, you actually can get a certification, that’s, you know, it’s just sort of a stamp of approval that you can use as part of your your searching activities. But But I would say even more than the value of the certification is really the value of the knowledge that you gain in the contacts that you make, because you’ll be meeting people like yourselves who are looking to get on their very first board. And what I have found is that it’s often common for people who are looking to get on board to sort of band together to help each other out. So you’ll form some alliances with people. And it’s very common for for people that are going through the search process, to say, Well, you know, an opportunity came my way, it’s not the right fit for me, but I thought you might like it. And so there’s a sharing, very informal but a sharing back and forth, that can be beneficial as well.
That’s so that’s really great. And you know, I think it’s so it is so helpful to hear your perspective here, in particular about this directorship certification, I know that you’re not speaking specifically about their program, but that what you’ve said, I think rings true, and that the piece of paper at the end, you know, may have some value of its own, but I’m not sure if all the corporations are out there looking for someone with directorship certifications, I’m not sure that actually helps you stand out as a candidate. But what it does do if I’m hearing you well, as is that it teaches you a lot of the fundamentals that you would need to know, to hit the boardroom, and a good start, and to have that network experience, um, to really help yourself, you know, just maybe fast track the likelihood of getting that first chord roll and showing up a little less green.
Right? That’s right. That’s right. And then those organizations also have continuing education where they’ll do networking events. In a pre COVID world, we actually met in person. But over the past year and a half, we’ve been doing a lot of webinars, and once again, an opportunity to gather some knowledge, but at the same time to meet some fellow board directors.
So great, thank you for that. Is there anything else that that we haven’t touched on today that you would want to add some advice that you’d give to someone who wants to kind of pursue this further or think about it more?
Yeah, I think maybe one other thing that I would add, we spend most of our time talking about how we can get boards to, to want to add us to their to their forte. But the other piece of the puzzle as you’re going through your board journey, is making sure that it’s the right board for you. And so that’s a piece of the equation that sometimes people overlook. But one of the things that you want to think about, you know, as you’re going through this process, and starting to meet people and meet companies and seeing real live opportunities is, you know, what do you think about the business itself, the company and its, its its mission and strategy, is it something that you believe in, because you’re going to be sort of attaching your wagon to their star, so you want to make sure that you feel that the strategy is solid, and that you can add value to the organization based upon the skills and experiences that you bring to the table. But in addition to that, I think it’s also really important to think about and get to know the people. So get to know the CEO, the executive team, the other members of the Board of Directors, you’re going to be spending a lot of time together, and sometimes very challenging circumstances if things are not going well. And so it’s really important that you form your own assessment in terms of fit. Is this a group of people that I want to spend time with? Is this a group of people that is going to wear I think that they are We are all going to add value to the company? Is it a group of people that will respect my opinion, and whose opinions I respect? So be thinking about it from that standpoint, as well, as you’re making your decision about whether to say yes to to a specific board opportunity?
That’s so fantastic. It’s often overlooked. But on that note, everybody is often on their very best behavior when you’re going through these kinds of introductions or whatever is the interview process. How would you go about determining whether these are people you want to spend time with? Or how do you kind of cut through what might just be the people’s best interview behavior versus what’s really going on once the doors are closed?
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think there are a variety of things you can do. First of all, if it is a publicly traded company, don’t overlook the internet. There is a ton of information out there. The company has SEC filings, which I highly recommend that you review prior to your interview. There may be Glassdoor ratings, there may be other reviews of their products and services, read everything that you can get your hands on. So for publicly traded companies, lots of information, read everything you can think about your network, and maybe you know somebody who knows somebody at that company and don’t be afraid to access your resources because you really want to go in with eyes wide open, knowing as much as you can about the company. If it’s a private company or privately a private equity backed company, there’s not going to be as much information available publicly. However, you can ask for that information. You can ask the company to share with you the financials, you can Ask them to share their their analyses of the due diligence that was actually done at the point of investing in that company, you can ask them to share the compliance plan with you or the compliance audit with you audit results, you can ask for all that information. And then I would say, take the time to review it. Because once again, you want to make sure you really understand the good, the bad, and the ugly about the company before you make a commitment. So use all available resources, do your homework, do your deal, due diligence, and you’ll end up making a good decision.
This is so great. I love as you’ve said, you know, do your homework and do your due diligence. I think everybody wants to do that. But when you don’t know what you don’t know, I don’t think people would even think to ask the questions that you have just not only asked but answered. But I assume that that is also part of what is in some of these courses that you’ve read. That’s correct. Absolutely. So I’m going to put those links on the show notes. Now, I don’t know necessarily if you want a whole bunch of people reaching out to you individually, but would you like me to either tell people that you’re open for that or not? And how they could connect with you?
Yeah, that would be fine. Oh, you can find them with my email address, which would be the easiest way to connect with me. And I, you know, I do spend a lot of time talking to people who are looking to get on their first boards. And for me, it’s a way of paying back. I had a lot of people helped me on my journey. And so part of my goal now is to help other people who aspire to board service. So if your listeners are interested, I would be glad to spend some time with them on the phone, answer their specific questions and help guide them on their journey.
Thank you so much, Jean, I think there will be people who want to take you up on that. And it’s such a generous spirit. So much that you’ve just shared with us. It’s just all practical and it’s all super actionable. And just really enlightening. I know it’s going to be something that my audience has not heard a lot about, but they’re going to be so interested to hear about it. Thank you again, Jean, this has been a true pleasure. I really appreciate you coming on the prescription. Thank you for bringing your insights and your valuable information. Oh, thanks for having me here today. I enjoyed it. Well, that’s a wrap. Now you know all about corporate boards, what they do, why you might want to be part of one, what makes you a really attractive candidate, and some specific action steps to go about planning your journey towards securing a spot on the board. Thanks for joining me. Bye for now.
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