4 lessons from a CEO on how to diversify your board

One yr in the past, my firm set out to add a second impartial director to our board. We established a core set of priorities searching for somebody who had no less than two of the 4 following {qualifications}: expertise in monetary companies, experience in threat and compliance, a background in Huge Tech, or a massive private community of potential companions. We additionally had one nonnegotiable standards: we wished to add extra gender and racial variety to our board.

I assumed the method would take three to 4 months. In spite of everything, we’re within the governance enterprise with entry to an unparalleled world community of board members. I didn’t anticipate the lengthy however rewarding course of that adopted.

One yr later, I’m happy to say we welcomed our new board member to the Diligent board. Not solely does she meet our {qualifications}, however she occurs to be a wonderful tradition match. Alongside the best way, I discovered a sequence of invaluable lessons that I imagine can profit different firms, particularly these intent on constructing their variety.


Be intentional about what you’re searching for

I do know it’s apparent however anticipating what’s forward for your group is vital to kicking off any board search. For us, this dialog illuminated gaps and alternatives that structured extra particularly what we had been searching for in experience. We thought-about our wants throughout completely different time horizons: one, three, and 5 years down the highway.

These introspective discussions gave rise to a set of standards (and ultimately a candidate profile) that served as our guidepost all through the method. After all, the extra standards you add, the smaller the expertise pool, so it was vital for us to resolve which {qualifications} had been versatile versus must-haves.

For us, variety was an crucial. And with our lengthy record of necessities, we knew we’d have to be a little extra deliberate about our search, and a little extra affected person with the method.

Don’t waver, don’t settle

The record of frustrations throughout a search course of, particularly when variety and inclusion are prioritized will be lengthy: The candidate pool is simply too small for the {qualifications} we’d like; we’re struggling to discover various candidates who usually are not already “overboarded;” we’re undecided how to establish rising expertise exterior of the executive-level ranks; we’re simply not discovering the precise match.

I used to be fortunate to join with a Seattle-based CEO early on in our search course of who has constructed a various and proficient crew, which he believes has been a aggressive benefit over time. Whereas our dialog wasn’t restricted to board variety, his recommendation was invaluable and caught with me: “Don’t waver, don’t settle. It’d take you longer to add somebody with the abilities who additionally provides variety, but it surely’s value it.”

There is no such thing as a expertise scarcity. Slightly, challenges revolve round visibility and discovery, and these will be mitigated with tweaks to the board recruiting course of. The various expertise you’re searching for might not go by the title of CEO, and you might not discover them with the identical strategies used up to now. Though boards should be affected person, they have to additionally take proactive and intentional steps to construct a pipeline lengthy earlier than a board seat comes accessible.


Constructing a various pipeline takes time

I lately caught up with a director from an impressively various board, and I requested for her key to success. She credited her chair of the nominating and governance committee: “He by no means stops networking. He’s always increasing his circles. He builds private relationships with candidates. He mentors them and advances their careers. And when it’s time to fill a board seat, our committee faucets his various pipeline. It’s that straightforward.”

Various boards are proactive on this method. They focus long-term; they construct infrastructures which might be ongoing and sustaining. Because the board grows extra various, so does its community, making it simpler to establish rising expertise that will in any other case be distanced by two or three levels of separation.

Expertise will be a community multiplier

Old style networking is a highly effective device, but know-how can even support in each discovery and relationship constructing. That’s why, one yr in the past, our firm launched Trendy Management, an initiative that faucets a world base of organizations, board members, and companions to nominate various, board-ready expertise from their networks. As we speak, there are greater than 1,500 various candidates in our director community database, which isn’t solely accessible to boards however to the candidates themselves who can declare their profile and achieve visibility into open board seat postings.

This time subsequent yr, I’m hoping this group can have tripled in measurement as we proceed to broaden our nomination course of and partnerships with organizations like Out Management, Athena Alliance and the Latino Company Administrators Affiliation.

Whereas I’m excited to see recent faces arriving in boardrooms, the progress made during the last yr is just a drop within the bucket. To proceed the momentum and drive significant change, boards and corporations of all styles and sizes want to be intentional, relentless, and modern in in search of out the various expertise that exists. I look ahead to the progress forward.

Brian Stafford is the CEO of Diligent.