How to be an Effective Board Member

Virtual Events
Tue, Mar 16, 2021, 10:00 AM (PDT)

About this event

Watch the recording here! 

Carol Kruse, Board Director at Valvoline, and Elisabeth Charles, Board Member at At Home Group Inc., joined The CMO Club and our members for an incredible discussion about being an effective board member, as well as defined the different types of board and how and why you should join one. 

Check out the highlights from the roundtable

Board 101 

What are the different types of boards and the benefits of each? 

  • Non-profit board 
    • As Carol said, working on a non-profit board really comes down to the joy and desire to work for the community and the heart of a cause. 
  • Private Equity Board 
    • Typically a start-up where the company is looking for guidance, your connections and your insights into things like presentations, business decisions, etc. 
  • Advisory Board
    • Not a "board member" role, but a great stepping stone to make the connections to eventually become a board member for a private equity or public board. 
  • Public Board
    • This is most executive's goals, but also the hardest to reach. You typically will need a wealth of experience on boards and beyond to be considered. 
    • Although this is a coveted role, you need to remember that these are more than ~5 board meetings a year. These are sometimes as much work as a full time job and require 5-10 years of commitment in order to really make a difference. 

How and Why to Join a Board

Start with Your "Why" You Want to Join a Board 

  • For Elisabeth, this was partly for career growth. Many CMO's have aspirations to be a CEO or President of a company, and this is a great way to grow your career and often get out of your comfort zone. 
  • The desire to continue to learn from others who have even more experience or different opinions or expertise than you, as well as getting outside of your comfort zone. 
  • For some, being on a board while also working as a C-Level executive allows you to bring new best practices that you can apply to make you a more effective and valuable executive overall. 

How to Join a Board 

  • Network, network network - tell your connections/colleagues/fellow CMO Club members that you are looking for an opportunity to serve on a board! Elisabeth said to "put out as many 'tentacles' as you can". 
  • Remember, it's all about fit when a board is choosing a new member - either your background fits or it doesn't. Boards are very specific in what they are looking for, so don't take it personally if they don't offer you the seat. 
  • While your experience counts, more often than not they are more interested in a board bio that shows how you will bring business value to the company. 
    • Board bios were a hot topic, and Carol's biggest advice was to have a few people who have actually worked with you help contribute to this bio - they often observe things you contribute that you may not even realize. 
  • Remember, this isn't about you, it is about them and the company and a whole. 
  • Once you get an interview, prepare, prepare and prepare some more! 
    • Talk to your own company's board members and get their advice on what they look for in a board member. 
    • Have a thoughtful answer to "How do you envision your role on the board" - this is usually a test on how much you know about serving on a board. 
    • Carol even said that her interviews for boards have typically been even harder than her interviews for executive roles - put in the time to prepare! 

How to be Effective on a Board 

  • Remember you are there to ask questions, help advise, and share experiences or resources - not to be an executive. 
  • Be a partner, not a competitor, for the C-Suite executives. 
    • Make it clear you are there to help, not to critique or breath over their shoulders. 
  • Be provocative in your thinking.  
  • When you're on a board, it is more listening than talking. The more you listen, the more thoughtful questions you can raise. 
  • It's time consuming, but read everything prior to the meetings and come with questions. 

Resources to Learn More

Resources for help on your board search 

50/50 Women on Boards

The Boardlist

AboveBoard (free)

Diligent Network (free)

Him for Her (free) 

Spencer Stewart (reach out to Dave Scott if you need a connection!) 

Silicon Valley Executive Exchange (for people in the California Bay Area)

Want to continue the conversation? Let's take it to the discussion board! Also, keep an eye out for more sessions on joining and being on a board, coming soon! 



  • Jon Suarez-Davis

    Jon Suarez-Davis


    SVP, Marketing Strategy & Innovation