Acts of Service: 5 Ways Board Directors Pay It Forward and Win



Trusted to serve

Some parents shake off sleep while watching their children play hockey. Others applaud basketball games or gymnastics meets. In light of their gene pool, however, I don’t expect my children to be particularly remarkable at any athletic pursuit.

Instead, my husband and I have spent years nurturing their appreciation for great music. In particular, we focus on classic rock. It’s our obligation as parents to share the fundamentals of reading, writing, and Rolling Stones.

Chances are that you also have opportunities to share your passion and knowledge with someone. In particular, you have gifts that would benefit your fellow directors and those aspiring to join you in the boardroom. Consider these five acts of service as you look to share your expertise and experience with others.

Your Favourite Mistake

It’s no coincidence that my most frequently shared blog posts recount my boardroom missteps and frustrations (see here and here to start).  According to researcher and famed TED Talk speaker, Brené Brown, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

Although there are times to convey a polished, confident image, just as many situations benefit from all of us getting real. And if you are already a successful corporate director, your ego can withstand your being vulnerable with a deserving up-and-comer.

How You Assess a Situation

When I worked in investment banking, I reviewed legal agreements that droned on for hundreds of pages. Initially, I had limited feedback to offer, while a more seasoned colleague’s draft was awash in post-it notes and rewritten text. Over time, she showed me how to analyze legalese to ensure that the lawyers’ description matched a deal’s intentions.

When a relatively green director joins your board, you may have the opportunity to extend the same kindness. Offer to speak before a board meeting to tee up the key issues. Spend a few minutes afterwards to debrief the discussion and predict how issues might unfold. A new recruit may even appreciate a summary of your questions about the pre-read package, recognizing that you won’t have sufficient time to pose them all in the meeting.

Your Network

If you don’t feel sufficiently qualified to share expertise, the people you know may be more helpful anyway. According to marketing expert Porter Gale, “your network is your net worth.” Leveraging this asset can yield significant benefit for others and takes just a few minutes of your time. In addition, strategically sharing your social capital can create your own opportunities for board service.

How You Prepare for Board Interviews

As the chair of the nominations committee of two boards, I’m surprised by many candidates’ casual approach to interviews. Some aspiring directors understand the importance of robust preparation, but others treat interviews like a conversation they would have for any other job.

In reality, board interviews are the toughest I’ve experienced in my career. Fortunately, ample preparation can help prospective directors deliver a successful interview.  If you know someone shooting for a board role, you can help them succeed by sharing your thoughts on the industry or simulating a mock interview.

Your Relationships With Colleagues

If my experience is any indication, boards are placing increasing emphasis on the quality of relationships among directors. Newcomers and introverts can find these dynamics challenging, unless someone takes them under their wing.

On the day of a recent AGM, one of my colleagues invited a new female director to lunch with the other women on our board. At large board dinners, I know a board chair who intentionally sits with the management team member he knows the least. One of my boards even arranges the seating plan for each meeting so as to facilitate productive coffee breaks. Simply offering encouragement and feedback can be an act of service that supports everyone in the long run.


Over the next seven days, I’ll tuck ticket stubs for Paul McCartney, Randy Bachman and ZZ Top into our family scrapbook. My husband and I will share our knowledge and love of great music and I’ll reflect on ways that I could be of service more in my professional life too. At the very least, my 6-year old will one day make an excellent Trivial Pursuit partner. And I’m hopeful that the time and energy I invest in others will make a positive difference to the organizations I serve.

Question: What are your favourite acts of service in the boardroom (and beyond)? Is there something I can do to help you advance?

Please share your response via Twitter, LinkedIn or e-mail.

Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, please click the “like” button on LinkedIn and/or share it with others in your network. Doing so helps my work reach others and would mean so much to me.





Acts of Service: 5 Ways Board Directors Pay It Forward and Win

by Tamara time to read: 3 min