The journey from CxO to the boardroom: why, when and how

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Pivoting from a CxO role into the boardroom requires a thorough understanding of what you bring to the table and where you can add value.

In this article, Louise Chaplin, Partner and Head of Board Practice at Eton Bridge Partners draws on her extensive market insight to provide guidance to those looking to make the leap.

Are you boardroom ready?

The logic of transitioning to an NED role is obvious. Having built up a vast foundation of expertise in an executive function, there is a strong motivation to give back and pass this on in a non-exec capacity. But it’s vital that the transition is made ‘eyes wide open’ and that your motivations align with the NED role.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I comfortable with lower remuneration versus executive roles?
  • Is the time commitment manageable?
  • Am I prepared to accept the reputational risk that can come with linking myself professionally to another company?
  • Is it the right time in my career to step back from an executive role?

Ensuring that you have considered all the implications and that the time is right gives you the best chance of securing excellent boardroom opportunities. No specific qualification is needed; your qualification is your experience, expertise and insight.

Have you got what it takes?

Your value-add: the IQ to EQ skillset

Your wealth of corporate experience is a hugely valuable asset but how are you going to convey that to future boards? It’s crucial that you understand your USP and communicate your narrative.

  • What makes you stand out?
  • What insights can you bring that others may not?
  • How do you work with others – what is your boardroom style?
  • How will you communicate, build trust and influence in board meetings?

‘Hard’ skills such as professional qualifications and amassed industry knowledge forms your IQ. But the most effective board Chairs have an accomplished set of ‘soft’ skills too; an EQ that allows them to skilfully leverage their professional expertise to coach and guide the board.

EQ and IQ – the most effective board directors have both

Alongside an understanding of where you add value, you will also need to build a solid understanding of the board dynamic you may be joining. What kind of personality is the Chair? What’s the boardroom style? Then, consider the fit with your own influencing style.


Securing the role – and making the most of it

Make sure you are ‘on the radar.’ Utilise your network: make connections with peers, banking contacts, and recruiters; attend events; have channels to provide comments and thought leadership; be visible online and offline; keep your LinkedIn profile current and engaging. Ensure you are receiving data and insight on potential opportunities from all possible avenues.

When the right role is in front of you, this is your chance to show just how clearly your motivations and skillset are aligned with the opportunity. Understanding what you offer and where you fit will mean you are well prepared for the conversation. Know your value and articulate it clearly.

With the first NED role comes the chance to continue to develop your EQ skillset – coaching, mentoring and influencing. It’s also your opportunity to demonstrate, in practice, how you add value. In the right role, your experience and connections will visibly shape board outcomes and build a platform for further professional growth – both yours and the boards.

We would welcome a discussion with you to support you in your boardroom journey.