Develop your potential

Making the most of your opportunities

If you are serious about leadership you should create opportunities (where you can) and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way.

  • Add leadership and governance into your performance development plan as a way of informing management of your goals and seeking their support
  • Apply for training courses, both those targeted to women and those that include both men and woemn.
  • Seek out challenging projects that will stretch your abilities, allow you to learn, and draw your abilities to the attention of senior managers and board members.

If you have limited capacity for work, due to family responsibilities for example, don't assume that you should be sidelined from career development opportunities. Let people know you want to be included and considered, and think about negotiating flexible working arrangements so you don't miss out.

Networking and mentoring

Networking and mentoring can help you at any point in your career, and the sooner you become adept at this the better.  

  • By belonging to peer networks you will benefit from the support and advice of others.
  • You'll find that as a board member networking and mentoring will be invaluable.
  • Your networks may be an asset that gives you an edge when being considered for a position.


Your networks are the connections and relationships you have formed with people in your communities or profession. Networking is about reciprocity; networking is about both giving and receiving information and assistance. Networking provides access to useful contacts, perspectives and opportunities.

Benefits of networking include:

  • increasing the number of opportunities that you hear about
  • keeping abreast of the issues affecting the sectors that you operate or are interested in
  • access to those who make decisions or have an influence over board appointments in the sectors that interest you.

How to develop your networks:

  • Attend training course, conferences and other events in your field.
  • Join databases like the Ministry’s Nominations Service database and the Treasury's database.
  • Join organisations like the Institute of Directors in New Zealand and local Chambers of Commerce.


Mentoring is where a more experienced person acts as your role model and guide, assisting you in carrying out your role more effectively. Mentors can be particularly helpful when it comes to managing some of the more difficult challenges you'll encounter. 

The benefits of mentoring have become so well-recognised that many organisations have set up formal or structured mentoring programs. Once you are on a board there may be a formal mentoring system in place for your board. If not, be on the look-out for a person or people who can serve in this capacity.

A mentor should:

  • act as a sounding board to test your ideas
  • have an apporpriate level of skill and experience
  • be committed to your development
  • be trustworthy - you need to have confidence in your mentor’s discretion
  • have sufficient time available for what you require
  • help you to identify and maximise your strengths and aptitudes in your board role
  • discuss your performance and help you address areas where you require development

If you are looking for someone to mentor you as a board member, people who have served on similar boards are likely to understand challenges you may face. If a suitable person cannot easily be identified in your area, you could consider a telephone or electronic mentoring relationship.

The Institute of Directors currently has a mentoring scheme for women who are ready to serve on private sector boards.

Find a sponsor

A sponsor differs from a mentor.  A sponsor can proactively help you to advance your career. They are a senior person who may connect you to senior leaders within or external to the organisation. They can promote your visibility, give advice on career moves and help you to find career opportunities either within or outside the company.  They may even be involved in the decision about a new hire.

Some organisations may include sponsorship as part of their human resources capability development or career progression strategy. As part of your personal development plan you may wish to discuss this further with your manager.