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How to Find – and Join – the Right Board for You

By Tom de Kay

Mark A Pfister on how to find , and join the right board.

Like any move worth making, joining a board involves challenges and risks.

One of the big challenges, as Ken Banta pointed out in a recent conversation with Mark A. Pfister, is in how you present yourself, particularly when you’re coming from the C-suite.

Being a board member, or a board applicant, is totally different. . . . Your experience up till now is really valuable, [but] you need to understand it from a board-nominating point of view, not from your point of view as a CEO or C-suite leader.

— Ken Banta, CEO

The Vanguard Network

In other words, however skilled you are at management, what do you bring to this oversight role?

And there’s also the very real possibility that a board may not be right for you. Ken and Mark — deeply experienced specialists in executive leadership and boards — talked a lot about both sides of the equation. You can see highlights below.

Mark, the CEO & Chief Board Consultant of M. A. Pfister Strategy Group, has specific ways of evaluating board candidates, like asking them to talk about the relationship between governance and strategy. “If there’s not an immediate understanding of that,” he said, “I already know that they’re not at the level of a board director I would want.”

Similarly, there are ways for a candidate to feel out board members and the larger situation. “You can learn a lot from your interviews with people on the board,” Ken said.

It’s very good to ask not just, “What would my role be?” but “How does this place operate, what’s the health of it, what’s the organizational health of this board?”

— Ken Banta

You can also observe the dynamics first-hand:

You want to be focused on how those board members are communicating to one another. Is there someone who dominates, that’s not allowing other board members to talk? Do you sense areas of disrespect? Are they even saying the same thing, or are they on very different pages when they describe what they need?

— Mark A. Pfister, CEO & Chief Board Consultant

M. A. Pfister Strategy Group

Check out the video for more of their insights. And you can learn more about board candidate education and certification here.

Ken Banta is founder and principal of The Vanguard Network, which convenes C-Suite discussions around high-performance leadership, and advises top executives on leadership.

Mark A. Pfister is the CEO & Chief Board Consultant of M. A. Pfister Strategy Group.


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