Leveraging Star Power on Your Board of Directors
Besides champ (most recently 23 Grand Slam Singles Titles) and record holder (oldest player to win a Grand Slam Singles title ed note. She set that record while pregnant!), Serena Williams can add Board Director to her illustrious resume. Serena Williams recently joined the board of SurveyMonkey. While none of the press releases have indicated what specifically she can bring to her board role, I think we can speculate about what skills she has and how SurveyMonkey will be able to use those skills to further their organizational goals. Let’s look at some ways that your board can leverage a high profile director to contribute to the work of your board and organization.
Connections, Connections, Connections
When soliciting star board directors, think about the other organizations to which they are connected to advance your organizational goals. In the case of Serena Williams, SurveyMonkey could look to J.P. Morgan Chase as a means of access to capital. Board director Williams could help initiate that conversation. What connections of your high profile board directors can you leverage?
While on the surface, you may not see a connection between surveys and sports, each individual you bring to your board is going to think differently because they have had different life perspective. Serena Williams grew up in Compton, is an entrepreneur, a soon-to-be mom, and has been paid less money for the same work as a man. These life experiences will shape the way she thinks about board decisions, her proclivity to risk, and how she views the future of SurveyMonkey. Similarly, your star board director will have his own set of life experiences that are going to make him think differently than other directors. Embrace those who think differently as they will be able to create the healthy conflict that will force you to think deeply about your organizational challenges to lead to more informed decisions.
Don’t Ignore the Elephant
Silicon Valley is currently being condemned for its lack of diversity in upper management and board director representation. SurveyMonkey made a bold step by electing a black woman, who happens to be the the 2016 highest paid athlete, to its board of directors. SurveyMonkey is sending a clear message that they care about the opinions of black women. Her presence and the effort that SurveyMonkey has made to announce her presence speaks volumes to audiences who may not have considered SurveyMonkey in the past. As an athlete, an entrepreneur, and a soon-to-be mother, Serena Williams possess an intersectionality in which multiple people can relate. By connecting her to SurveyMonkey, the company has opened the possibility of more engagement with their product. As a black woman myself, I will be more willing to use SurveyMonkey products because I know that another black woman is informing the decisions being made by the company. When you elect a board director that meets one of your diversity goals, make sure you promote it! By highlighting your commitment to diversity, you increase the visibility of your organization to new audiences.
For more information on board governance and board diversity, follow along on Twitter or Instagram. Nikki McCord is the founder of McCord Consulting Group, the only choice for organizations looking to energize, innovate, and diversify their Board of Directors.