Recently, we hosted an Ask Me Anything style Q&A with our community. Below is a summary of one of the questions asked — something many members of our community are curious about — How do you assess if a potential board position is the right fit for you?
Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder of theBoardlist, founder & CEO of Joyus, alum of Google, Amazon and Polyvore, and a board member for TripAdvisor Inc. and Ericsson, looks at board position fit in three ways:
- Cultural fit with CEO — This is one of the most important things. This is the person you are ultimately trying to serve/help/influence. How much do you want to work with them? This is even more important than the rest of the board dynamics in my estimation.
- Cultural fit with other board members — When assessing board fit, you are really trying to suss out the culture of the board when you meet with these folks. Questions to ask: How do they interact together? What is a serious challenge they faced together and how did they do it? How do they manage the CEO? What are the politics and agendas of each member? You’re trying suss out the dynamic you’re entering.
- Needs assessment — Assess what they need right now vs. what you have to give, both skills wise and time wise. You are looking at both how well you fit what they need and how much you can contribute. This is a double edged sword, for example, many folks want a “digital board member” but if you are the ONLY voice on digital, it is lonely. You need similar change agents inside the company to be successful manifesting a digital strategy — your voice alone may be difficult to change the culture of a company. Overall, you want to be needed for your expertise but feel like you’re not the fish out of water.
In addition, because boards take a lot of time, you need to look at how much time they are asking for and how passionate you are about the company, the board, the CEO and what you can learn from the board.”
Blair Christie, theBoardlist’s Strategic Advisor, former Cisco CMO, board member for MindBody, AirGrub and US2020 adds:
“The priority for me is culture fit. If you are going to spend your time, the culture and chemistry fit is key. I would add the dimension of “interest” too. It’s important to have a genuine interest in the nature/industry/space of the company you are considering, remember — this is work! Finding a space where you are curious and interested is very important!”
Lesley Grossblatt, VP of Product & Business Operations for theBoardlist, and alum of Netflix, Nextdoor and CreativeLive, works directly with boards who are using theBoardlist to find candidates for their board opening. During this work, she sees how boards consider fit:
“For boards that are searching for new members — if they’ve been around for a while, they have a track record of what’s worked and what hasn’t e.g., personalities, styles. So when they’re looking for a new member, they will often have a pretty clear idea of the type of person they’re looking for that goes beyond the functional/industry expertise.
With newer boards, I think they’re learning how the board culture is different from the company culture. So, that is a process that takes time to unfold but clearly every board is very focused on culture in however way they define it for themselves.”
Searching for your perfect board fit? Visit theboardlist.com/join to learn more about joining us a candidate or a board searcher.