Our last article made the case for the benefits technology leaders can bring to the boardroom. While directors bear a large part of responsibility in bringing the tech perspective into the boardroom, there is also work for tech leaders to do to ready themselves for board service. Here are six things CTOs and CIOs can do to prepare for board service.
1. Be a student of the boardroom.
CTOs and CIOs who aspire to be board members must become true students of the boardroom. No one is entitled to a directorship, and potential members must understand the nuances between operations and oversight. In addition, they must be genuinely interested in how the board functions—what each committee does, the dynamics and culture of a particular board, etc.—and not fall back into leaning on their tech expertise alone.
2. Select a board position for the right reasons.
As students of the board, these aspiring directors should seek functional, healthy boards to serve on, regardless of the size, scope, or reputation of the organization. The goal should be to serve on a board among great directors who take corporate governance and their roles to be continuous learners seriously versus being on a board for the clout the company name carries.
3. Be mindful of how you present yourself to board members.
Step one here is to ensure you are regularly reporting to the board as a CIO or CTO. This could be to the full board (ideally) or to the audit committee. During these presentations, observe yourself in how you network with corporate directors—could you come off as arrogant because you believe you belong on a board or do you not give yourself enough credit? How do you engage with your own board? You will want to be seen as a collaborator that people are excited to work with and are there to create value for the company.
4. Recognize that you are not the only tech expert.
While there is no doubt you have a wealth of expertise in technology, you must also take a deep interest in how other discuss tech at the board level. Stay open to learning and accept that your perspective on tech is only one perspective.
5. Suspend your solutions-oriented mindset (temporarily).
Tech leaders have been instructed to be problem solvers in their roles, but they must shelve this desire to solve when it comes to boardroom discussions and become complexity holders, enabling a fulsome debate on all topics—including technology.
6. Embrace the board journey with a beginners’ attitude.
This does not imply a lack of competence but is more about experiencing serving on a particular board for the first time. You will bring a fresh, outside perspective and can ask questions or make observations that longer-serving members may no longer be able to see since they are so steeped in how that board operates.
We regularly help technology leaders prepare for board service, helping them chart professional and personal leadership milestones and ensure they can translate their vast tech knowledge into a narrative that every board member can understand. For more resources on how to chart your path to the boardroom, visit our Path to the Boardroom interactive guide.