Coaching is a powerful tool that can help to improve families, businesses and society. However, as a coach you can use your skills and expertise on a far wider platform than in a face-to-face or virtual coaching session by serving on a board.
Serving on a board is probably something you thought about at some point in your life. It used to be that serving on a board was something we consider doing one day when we hang up our career hats. For that reason, board members across the world used to be male and over 65 years old.
For many reasons, that landscape has changed considerably. Over the last two decades there has been a worldwide movement to see more women on boards. Although women are still not nearly as well represented on boards as their male counterparts, boards have since also acknowledged that diversity and inclusion in the boardroom goes far beyond that of merely including a few women to occupy some board seats.
It is now more focused and D&I goals now include aspects such as having more disabled representation on boards, improved racial diversity, including younger board members and more. This also brought about a move to bring more diverse skills on board – this is where you as a coach will be able to make your mark.
The soil has been tilled and the groundwork laid to open opportunities for coaches to step into their roles as non-executive directors.
But let us take a step back and first have a look at why a board role (or maybe two) is a good idea for anyone looking to advance their career.
You will gain an understanding of the way your own company’s board works. If you are looking to level up in your career, an understanding of the way the board works can be invaluable to you.
You get to work with people whom you otherwise won’t have access to. Even small not-for-profit boards often have board members who are heavyweights in a certain industry.
You could get paid for serving on a board. Many boards pay their members a sitting fee. At the very least you will be reimbursed for agreed expenses.
It can give you continuity on your CV. If you are without work for a period, you will be able to show that you have been making strides in your board work in the absence of an executive role.
Serving on a board could future-proof your career and make it more resilient. Having a board role could give you access to other career opportunities and your CV will look much better when you start looking to make a career move.
Prepare for post-executive life. Gaining board experience during your executive career paves the way for you to keep serving on boards after you retire.
Kick the tyres on a portfolio career as a non-executive director. Taking a board role will give you the opportunity to see if exchanging your executive role for a portfolio career is the right move for you.
You become a leader in your community. Working within your community at a board level will not only give you a deep understanding of the community in which you live and work, you will become known as a leader.
You get to live your passion. Serving on a board that serves a sector you are passionate about is one of the best ways to give back or help bring positive change.
2 Ways in which Taking a Board Role can be a Coach’ Best Career Move
You are a coach. But you might be looking to grow your practice and yourself in more ways than you currently are. In that case, a board role might be a good career move for you.
Not only do the 11 reasons to become a board member above apply to you, but there are also two more reasons why taking on a board role in addition to being a coach could be the right move for your career:
Boards need the core competencies you already apply as a coach.
As coaches we sit with our clients while they sometimes struggle through the most difficult circumstances, while we apply the Core Competencies we learn about during our coach training. When you were a new coach, you had to really think about applying these but if you are anything like me, you will catch yourself in normal day-to-day conversations applying these competencies.
It is exactly these skills that you will need if you want to become an effective board member. The competencies you will apply in almost every board meeting are:
Demonstrates ethical practice
Embodies a coaching mindset
Establishes and maintains agreements
Cultivates trust and safety
Facilitates client (organizational) growth.
I will go deeper into the core competencies as it applies to boards in future.
Create an awareness of coaching and a coaching culture
By being a board member, you will be able to establish synergies between the board and coaching.
When talking to executive coaches, one of the main difficulties they experience is entering a new business as an external coach. We are all aware that it can take years to cultivate the right relationships within a company that will open the door to the right decisionmakers who are able to say yes to coaching in a company. As a board member, you will be one of these decisionmakers!
Apart from being visible on a platform such as CoachLinks, board work can be an integral part of getting coaching work within companies. As a board member, you are in a prime position to help create a coaching culture within a company.
Although opening doors to coaching should not be your main reason for taking a specific board role, you will be at the forefront of what is happening and in an ideal position to pivot once the opportunity for coaching within the company becomes available.
About the Author
I am Elmarié Porthouse. I am a qualified coach and have worked in the board search sector since 2013. In 2021 I took my experience in branding and marketing and combined that with my board search experience to create coaching products that help anyone who wants to become a board member. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I am always happy to have a chat.