Get to Boards: Networking, The First Step to a Board Seat
If you desire that board seat, networking with promoters and existing board members is crucial. Board aspirants must also display a good alignment with promoters on cultural compatibility and sharing of values. Most of the rejections for board appointments have been attributed to the candidate being a ‘cultural misfit.’
In today’s world, the ability to influence people in an informal way than through power is much more relevant. Once you begin networking, you will notice the magic it brings in. Networking brings in fresh ideas for work and life, strengthens business connections, helps gain knowledge, advances your career, builds confidence, and get access to a handful of opportunities that can accelerate your career to a greater level.
It is often said, ‘Our Network is our Net worth,’ yet it should not feel like you are using them for your gains.
Who to Network With?
As an aspiring board member, you need to focus on people who have advanced access to a board opportunity and are quietly working on it. Senior board members (both executive and non-executive), members of the Nomination and Remuneration Committee (NRC), Company Secretaries, and occasionally, Chartered Accountant firms, Law firms, PE Funds and VCs are generally the first ones to formally know about the upcoming board vacancies; hence, they should be included in your networking target.
How to Network?
Conferences and seminars are great platforms to make or break your image and connections. Keep an eye on various upcoming conferences where you can connect with relevant people, in particular the NRC members. Seek introductions through former bosses and ex-colleagues present at the event, reciprocate by introducing them generously to your known ones present.
Raising a question in the conference hall makes you visible but must do your home-work well before doing so. See the conference agenda at home and target who you need to be seen by, rehearse a good short question for him. Never walk into a conference without doing your homework about the theme, speakers, and likely participants. Be careful to handle your drinks and dinner aptly at these events.
When conversing with your target, compliment them generously during or post their talk or presentation, approach them, and ask them what more you want to know about the topic with a request to connect more on the same.
After the event, you must compliment them on a social media platform, preferably with a picture of the event where you met them. Be sure to quickly follow up this meeting with another event opportunity so that you get to take the relationship forward.
Here are a few tips for Networking
✔ Have a couple of relevant icebreakers handy
Topics such as the weather, traffic, industry developments or announcements at the national/international level, company results, announcements, and appointments/ resignations from various boards are great icebreakers.
✔ Polish your conversational skills
Make it a point to memorize the key names of various board members, KMPs, policymakers, etc. Other topics for conversation can be the highest-paid independent directors, books, movies, videos, and podcasts about corporate governance. Read up and learn about how to give an elevator pitch.
✔ Be the Outside-Inside connection and connector
Savvy managers multiply their knowledge and contributions by strengthening their connections. They are not only the connections themselves but also the connector for resources and opportunities.
✔ Be a giver before you receive
If you help and support people, they are more likely to remember you and be grateful for your help. The chances of them returning the favours are much higher in such a case.
Dos and Don’ts of Networking
✔ When you identify your target and their needs, connect with them, and compliment them for what they have achieved in the recent past.
✔ Build your professional profile. Get a professional picture clicked.
✔ Do not get carried away by popular trends, such as in the case of women, to look beautiful. Rather it is better that networking is kept formal and business-oriented.
✔ Be sure to always carry enough visiting cards with you. To be perceived as being digitally savvy, share a digital card as well.
✔ When sending your contact details digitally, send your ‘contact card’ that includes all the ways to connect with you, not just your number.
✔ Avoid making any negative or sharp comments on social platforms; build positivity around you.
✔ Avoid friends that make negative, religious, or political comments on social media.
✔ Always be respectful to women, all communities, and sects of society.
✔ Engage with students seeking connections from select relevant B schools.
✔ Avoid having profiles on websites or apps that have dubious credibility.
✔ Never accept invites from unknown sources, it is ideal to connect with people you have met personally or if you have mutual connections.
Where to Network?
Apart from your alma mater, here are places you must network.
◾ Primary places to network are the professional associations such as
- IMA (for medicos)
- Regional centers of institutes of CA/CS/CMA/Engineers/Architects
- Function-based associations like HR, Insurance, Bankers, Internal Auditors, etc.
- Association of Directors/Independent Directors
- Ad Clubs (for Ad and Marketing fraternity)
- Management Associations (General for all categories)
◾ Secondary places are the Social settings such as
- Social Clubs (Golf/ Tennis Clubs, NSCI, Gymkhanas, etc.)
- Charity Groups (Rotary Club, Lions Club, etc.)
- Religious Groups (JITO, etc.)
◾ Tertiary places are Industry Bodies/ Associations / Chambers such as
- FICCI FLO
- AIMA or Local Management Association
Note: Get support from Board Stewardship Inc. to enhance your networking quotient. We help you connect with right professionals. Email to us with your phone number for a call back on email@example.com