Why be a non-executive director? The 4 unexpected benefits of being on a board
Whilst every single board member must have a good level of financial acumen, it is more important for all boards to have at least one or two specialist finance professionals in their midst. Who better than an energetic and committed CFO?
There are many benefits that ambitious, passionate CFOs can expect to gain from joining a board. You can make an impact, get involved in a cause you care about, earn extra income and learn unbeatable leadership skills, just to name a few. But these more obvious advantages just scratch the surface of what a board member can hope to achieve. At Future Directors, we see a myriad of unexpected benefits as well and, in this article, I’m going to share four of them with you.
#1 – Credibility and reputation
One thing that any employer of choice will tell you is how much they value the ability to manage time and multiple commitments in their employees, and working on a board proves that you have those qualities in abundance. Anyone willing to commit themselves to a directorial role on top of their day job is showing that they’re capable of taking on more responsibilities and able to balance executive and non-executive positions.
The benefit of a boost in credibility and reputation applies whether your role on the board is paid or unpaid. If you’re donating your time, people will see you as someone who’s willing to sacrifice, in order to give something back. For paid board positions, you’ll be seen as someone who’s credible and performing well enough to be recruited onto a board that’s paying them a lot of money.
This reputation will only increase with time, and you’ll become seen as more and more an expert in your field, with others seeking you out to ask your advice and opinion.
#2 – Money
Money should never be your primary objective when looking to join a board. But in this article, we’re talking about the unexpected benefits, and there are plenty of those that can potentially be very lucrative.
Besides actually getting paid to work on a board (which can range from nothing but expenses to hundreds of thousands of dollars), the unexpected monetary benefits are not exactly direct but just as rewarding. As your credibility and reputation improve, so will your personal brand, and with that comes a host of new opportunities for you in your career or business.
If you’re a business owner, this increase in profile will result in deeper networks, more connections and ultimately more leads for your business.
If you’re in employment, you will (as we discussed above) be seen as more capable and therefore more promotable, leading to better paid positions within your industry.
#3 – Learning on the job and teaching others
In most industries, a team of employees will share similar key skills; for instance, solicitors working for a family law firm will typically have similar education backgrounds and specialities. And while this is a great way to further hone your existing expertise, it doesn’t provide you with a great number of varying disciplines to learn more about.
Working on a diverse board means that your fellow directors will be from different professional backgrounds. You could have a lawyer, an engineer, marketer, entrepreneur, seasoned CEO, digital expert and of course, you, the finance professional. All of you working for the same board, or any number of possible combinations via a sub-committee structure.
Not only is the diversity that comes with being a director an interesting break from the norm, it’s also a great opportunity to build upon your current skill-sets and learn about different trades.
Don’t forget, as well, that this gives you the opportunity to share your own expertise with a group of people you might otherwise never have met. The more you help others learn and develop the more influential you become, as a go-to director.
#4 – Seeing the other side of the mug
This last point is easily the least expected on the list but in some ways the most valuable.
By working on a board, you have the unique chance to see through the eyes of a non-executive versus the perspective of a role in management that you’re likely more used to.
Not only will this give you a more holistic view of how organisations work as a whole, you’ll also gain insight into the role of the director and empathy for the work they do. This way, you’ll be able to learn new ways to improve your relationship that will benefit the whole team, and to ask the right questions in order to get the best results.
In my career, I’ve seen plenty of instances where those in non-executive positions typically earn more in their executive careers, are more promotable, have greater job security and are unemployed less. And even outside of that, there are many ways that working on a board allow you to broaden your horizons, both in and away from work, and become more efficient in your skill-sets and expertise.
Finance professionals are in constant demand on boards that approach Future Directors for help. Your skills are just so specialized.
The examples I’ve given here are just a few of the less expected advantages that come from working as a director, but believe me when I say that there are many more to choose from. Stay tuned for a follow-up article featuring a few more unexpected benefits, or better yet go discover them for yourself!
Paul Smith, Co-Founder & CEO of Future Directors Institute
Future Directors unlocks the boardroom potential in the next generation of director, focusing on younger directors aged 21-49. Since launch, we have helped 200 emerging leaders start their board careers, including dozens of finance professionals. Our award-winning Board Kickstarter Program is the perfect complement to technical governance training and helps aspiring directors understand whether they want a board role, how to get a board role and what makes them an effective Future Director.
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