7 mistakes executives make on the path to the boardroom

A boardroom career is very much in vogue at the moment, as is personal brand management. However it's quite a tricky process, so I thought I'd share with you some of the mistakes that I have seen as people start this journey and shed a bit of light on how you can make a smoother transition to a boardroom career.

Mistake 1: You don't have a plan

The differences between a corporate role and a board position are huge and starting out without a plan is fraught with danger.

It's critical to plan for this move and to make sure you are giving yourself enough time to complete the necessary training and connect with the appropriate people. This process takes some time, so you need to plan well in advance and you need a strategy.

Mistake 2: Not knowing your audience

Do you know who you know?  

I ask my clients this question a lot and am often met with a puzzled look.

In my experience, many senior executives have been too busy to maintain their network, particularly their external contacts, and their strongest relationships are the ones within their current company.

As a result, they have forgotten who they know. This creates some real challenges for when they decide to leave to pursue other opportunities or board positions.

You simply must work out who you know and also who you need to get to know. 

Mistake 3: Not building relationships or putting the time in to maintain and strengthen them

As with the previous point, you need to know who is in your market, and then get to know them. Just remember, one coffee does not a relationship make. It's takes time, effort and a genuine interest in other people.

Mistake 4: Hiding behind your desk

I know it’s a tough habit to break, so take a deep breath, back away from your computer, pick up the phone and speak to people.

Then get out of the office. Dedicate a day a month to connecting with people who are important to you.

We all know face to face meetings have far greater impact than phone calls, so don't waste yours or anyone else's time trying to connect via email.

The only exception to this rule is if you have lost someone’s phone number and you have exhausted all other avenues of finding it.

Many people are fearful of rejection and this can make it hard to reach out and connect with people, but just remember that you’re not alone here and quite often people are delighted to reconnect and find out what you are up to and also share their stories.

If you really want to connect with someone, you have to make the effort and email does not qualify as effort.

Mistake 5: Not engaging your entire market

Failing to engage your entire market means your brand and network will lack depth and you will fail to have any real influence. If you are focused solely on one area you will also fall short of your goals.

Every market can be divided into segments and these segments such as stakeholders, referees, government should all be on your engagement plan.

Don’t feel you have to engage the whole market at once, that’s extremely hard, but you should be focused on chipping away at it and having a few irons in the fire at any one time.

Mistake 6:  Failing to tailor your pitch

If you have pulled together a pitch and then you deliver the same pitch to everyone you speak to, they will switch off or walk away.

The same goes for talking about yourself and not asking questions, but I don’t need to remind anyone to do that.

Having a relevant and appropriate set of messages to share with the segments of your market is vital to getting your message across and engaging with your audiences.

Mistake 7: Being too technical

Being technical feels safe to many people, but it’s incredibly boring to just about everybody listening.

It’s a real challenge, but you need to lose the jargon and acronyms and speak in plain English to people if you want them to take you seriously.

It’s hard work and it takes practice, but it’s worth it.

I hope this helps. I’d love your feedback or to hear about any other mistakes people make.