Purposeful Networking is the key to the Boardroom

Networking is a key component in landing a Board appointment and brings benefits into the Boardroom.

This research found that the old adage of ‘who you know’ continues to matter as much as ‘what you know’ when it comes to finding out about and securing a board appointment. Developing and maintaining a wide variety of professional relationships is a crucial element to career success as it leverages and gives visibility to an individual’s capabilities.  Overall in 78% of board appointments contacts played a role during the recruitment process in alerting candidates to roles, helping with information on the organisation/industry/people and acting as advocates or references at interview. But it’s not just about handing around and collecting business cards it’s about developing and sharing interests in specific topics over a whole career, with the right people.
The research identified that men and women, already in Board positions, are very similar, they deploy similar networking strategies and use similar network tools like LinkedIn and Conferences. However the key differences were that female board members (average age 49) are much younger than their male colleagues (average age 58) and tended to come from a variety of professions (HR, PR, Legal etc) where as men were more likely to have a financial or engineering background. Men were more likely to sit on national and international boards with women on local or regionally based boards.

Networking plays a key role in the boardroom as it is often used as a short cut for sourcing new skills and providing assurance about suitable board members or work partners.  It is also useful for sparking innovation, business development and influencing regulators/government. However, if used without effective governance, negative consequences are lack of independence, lack of diversity or limited access to the full range of skills available.  The role of the Nomination or Governance Committee is crucial in harnessing the value of networking but militating against these risks.

The study found that the people who achieve board positions are better connected and make good use of their networks both to give and receive.
Paula is a Deputy Director of Resources at the Environment Agency and has sat on two Social Housing Boards.  This study was completed for an MBA thesis at the University of Bath Management School.

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