06/26/2012 08.53 EDT
When clients engage us to conduct a search to fill a critical position in their organization, they have almost always considered internal candidates for the role. Sometimes they just don’t have the internal talent needed for the position or they are specifically seeking an “outsider” – someone who is not from their company and may not even be from their industry. Outsiders are attractive to organizations because they bring a fresh perspective and have a different take on things like corporate culture, strategy and leadership style.
So how can a company try to develop that “outsider” perspective in high potential leaders in their own company? I would like to suggest a very effective, inexpensive strategy that will benefit the executive as well as the reputation of the company. Encourage your up-and-coming leaders to serve as board directors for non-profit organizations in your region.
There are countless non-profit organizations, large and small, working to improve the quality of life in your community. They focus on any number of things – education, child welfare, senior citizens, the arts – the list goes on and on. All of them are hungry for board leadership and need volunteers with business skills to help them achieve their missions while maintaining their margins.
I joined my first non-profit board when I was in my early 30s and about ten years into my career. I have been involved with one board or another ever since. Right now, I serve on four boards with very different missions. The benefits to my development as a professional have been substantial and I feel as though I’ve made meaningful contributions to all of these organizations.
These are some of the skills and benefits you can expect your developing leaders to pick up through a non-profit board assignment:
Someday, when you look back at your life and career, I’m betting that the contributions you made to help a struggling non-profit stay alive will be more important to you than your part in hitting the quarterly earnings targets. And you might reflect on the fact that you got better at the latter after you spent time on the former.