How to Get on Government and Crown Corporation Boards



Trusted to serve
by Tamara Paton in How to get on board
crown corporation boards

I’ve written a number of times under the banner of “how to get on boards”. Advisory roles, private equity-backed companies, and non-profits have captured our attention. And I continue to field questions about how we can progress towards public and private company roles (my thoughts here, herehere and here).

Changing gears, I recently spoke with a mentor who serves on the board of a crown corporation. He generously pointed out what I could do to join him. Previously, I hadn’t given thought to the way a government-sponsored agency might recruit directors differently than other boards. The conversation opened my eyes to what I would miss if I overlooked public service.

(Oddly, my first instinct was to put this fresh wisdom down on paper. Some people follow advice, whereas others set out to share it broadly. You know you have a blogging addiction when…)

My mentor prescribed a handful of approaches, all of which are appropriate for other aspiring directors.

1. Understand the official selection process

Publicly-funded organizations often have relatively transparent director recruitment and selection processes. In Ontario, the Public Appointments Secretariat advertises and accepts applications for open positions for more than 500 agencies, commissions and boards. For Canadian federal agencies and corporations, we look to the Governor in Council Appointments. Whatever your geography, there is a mechanism through which government-sponsored and crown corporation boards recruit directors. As a bonus, these sites tend to share the backgrounds of those already serving, so you can quickly get a sense of how you stack up versus the competition.

I used to think that these websites were window dressing, merely giving the appearance of a level playing field for all stakeholders. I now stand corrected, assured by several successful candidates who applied for their roles through official channels. It is worth checking these sites periodically and highlighting interesting opportunities to others in your network.

2. Work your network

Public organizations tend to be large, employing several times more people than your average corporation. As an organization’s payroll grows, so does the likelihood that your network contains someone affiliated with its board.

This is especially true if you have fostered ties through non-profit board service. Non-profits tend to bring together a wide variety of professional backgrounds. This diversity fuels connections with the kinds of people who have access to public service board roles, often as they transition to second careers beyond the C-suite.

3. Engage publicly with a relevant issue facing the organization

If an organization develops policy or regulations for the greater good, they often seek public input on emerging issues. Their release of a consultation paper or exposure draft is an open call for stakeholder input. If you or an organization you serve could be affected by evolving policy, public comment can become a convenient path to key influencers’ radar.

I understand that deregulation and disruption may sound dry, until it supports your view on insurance for Airbnb or licensing for Uber, that is. If you bring a bright, informed voice to a conversation, sharing your perspective could translate into a new opportunity.


Admittedly, much of this advice originates from a single source. A single, very successful source, but only one. I say this not to discount the insights, but to encourage you to seek input from others in a similar position. Initiating these conversations expresses our desire to serve and can open doors that were previously unknown to us.

Question: Have you explored roles on the boards of crown corporations? What lessons did you learn as you sought the role? I would love to hear your insights via Twitter.




How to Get on Government and Crown Corporation Boards

by Tamara time to read: 2 min