Choosing your approach

Which approach is right for you? This needs to be based on your experience, goals and your own road-map for your governance career. Both the stepping-stone and executive experience approach are complementary. You can follow either or both depending on your circumstances. You will probably employ both the executive and the stepping-stone strategies if you are aiming for boards governing national or international organisations.

Stepping-stone approach

This approach involves progressing from governance roles in smaller or less complex organisations to roles in larger or more complex organisations.  

If you already have held board or committee roles you could leverage off this experience to target the boards of larger or more complex organisations.

You may be looking for your first governance role, in which case you could target ‘entry-level’ governance roles, e.g. those boards attached to small organisations that operate at a local or regional level.

Taking a leadership role in your professional association or a role on the registration/disciplinary bodies for your profession (such as the Medical Council) is another way into governance. These boards can serve as an entry point e.g. an engineer with little to no governance experience may be able to serve on the Chartered Professional Engineers Council. (See New Zealand Boards for more information.)

Executive experience approach

This approach involves developing a successful professional career that can be applied to board roles. Success in the following areas will give you useful expertise to apply as a board director, as well as profile and reputation:

  • proven experience and successes in Chief Executive or second tier management roles
  • working in areas where you have profit-and-loss responsibilities for the organisation.

Which approach for which board?

It's important to know which approach will work for the board you are interested in.

We've listed which approach we recommend for each board type but but we suggest you investigate further when you have a specific position in mind.

Direct (or elected) approach

The direct or elected approach involves either:

  1. Putting yourself up for election or replying to a publicly-advertised position. For example, you could seek an elected position on a regional council, or a board director position on a co-operative where the voters and directors are the owners of the organisation; or
  2. Directly contacting a board or organisation yourself to ask for a role or make yourself known as interested in a director role. For example, you could approach a not-for-profit organisation where qualified directors may be difficult to find.

Indirect approach

The indirect approach involves making yourself known in governance circles as a skilled director who is interested in governance roles. This approach relies on building your reputation and networking. You can also distribute your CV to  recruitment companies that suggest people for governance roles.

Why the indirect approach? Some appointments processes involve trusted candidates being put forward by members of the current board, other respected associates, and/or governance databases; this process is highly reputation and network based. This type of appointment process is not open and direct approaches are unlikely to lead to an appointment. Using a direct approach may indicate that you are unaware of the process and therefore not an appropriate candidate.

Which approach for which board?

Consider using the Direct (or Elected) Approach for the following boards:

  • Larger or higher level board types
    • Extra large co-operatives
    • Large co-operatives
    • Friendly Societies
    • Large national NGOs
    • National recreational organisations
    • Small national NGOs
    • Philanthropic organisations
  • Medium-sized or mid-level board types
    • District Health Boards
    • Health registration bodies or other health boards
    • Māori community and social organisations 
    • Religious organisations
    • Service Organisations
    • Regional sports trusts or Sporting boards
    • Representative business or professional organisations
    • Regional Councils
    • Local Council
    • Iwi/Hapu Authorities, Runanga and Trust Boards
    • Māori business or professional organisations
    • Māori Land Trusts and Incorporations
    • Regional NGOs
  • Smaller / entry level board types
    • Secondary school Board of Trustees
    • Board of Trustees of primary schools, kindergartens & kohanga reo
    • Māori preschool, primary and secondary educational institutions
    • Marae Trusts
    • Community level not-for-profits
    • Cultural organisations
    • Playcentre trusts
  • Consider using the Indirect Approach for the following board types:
    • Larger or higher level board types
      • Extra large publicly listed companies
      • Extra large privately held companies
      • Large publicly listed companies
      • Large privately held companies
      • Iwi/Hapu Commercial Entities
      • Māori Tertiary Institutions 
      • Māori private and publicly listed companies
    • Medium-sized or mid-level board types
      • Council Controlled Organisations
      • University Councils
      • Polytechnic Councils
      • Medium enterprise
      • Primary Health Organisations
      • Regional or community level government boards
    • Smaller / entry level board types
      • Community Trusts
      • Family Farms
      • Small enterprise
      • Māori small business enterprises

    Keep in mind that some boards appoint directors through two different processes. For example, District Health Boards have members appointed by ministers, and others are advertised publicly. In these cases, an indirect approach of putting yourself on a government database may lead to a Minister-appointed position, while the direct approach of seeking election may lead to an elected position.