Close Friends & Strong Relationships are NOT the Connections that Will Get You a Board Appointment

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According to Malcolm Gladwell, and counter-intuitively, it is your Weak Ties that make you powerful. He points to sociologist Mark Granovetter (Stanford University), whose classic study “Getting a Job”, surveyed 282 Boston workers and found that 56% got jobs through a personal connection. However, of those connections, he found that most were weak ties. Only 17% of people who got a job through a personal connection saw that contact often. 55% saw them occasionally and 28% saw them rarely – your ‘weak ties’.

That means that 83% of people who gained a job through a personal connections saw that person rarely or infrequently. That means that they were nearly three times as likely to have found their job through a personal contact than through an advertisement, headhunter or other formal means. In other words, success is largely about who you know, not what you know.

Weak Ties are the Most Valuable Board Contacts

Extrapolating these findings to board appointments (and my study that found that 65% of people were appointed to a board via a personal connection), means that approximately 53% of all board appointments potentially occur through connections seen rarely or infrequently – an amazing statistic and one that should revolutionise the way you search for a board appointment.

But who are they?

Who are your Weak Ties

Weak ties can be defined as Contacts and Connectors. Contacts are people you see rarely or infrequently. Connectors are people that you want to know (or know of) because you know that they provide access to people or opportunities.

They are particularly powerful because these people come without any preconceived notions of who you are or what you offer. As such, with the right pitch, you are able to define your value and leave them with clarity of what it is you are looking for and what you offer.

It is all linked to something called the ‘Fundamental Attribution Error’. You can read about that here.

The commonality between these sorts of weak tie connections is that you don’t have a relationship with them that can be jeopardised. Rather, you have a connection and that connection is perceived to be much more about business rather than pleasure.

More on this in the next article. In the meantime…

What Does This Mean for You?

On countless occasions, I have heard stories of a chance meeting at a dinner or a meeting at a Saturday morning sporting event leading to board appointments. Just a few months ago, a client recounted a story to me of how they were appointed to a board after going on a sailing trip with his daughter’s friend’s father at a school event. They happened to sit next to each other and got talking about what each other did; through the conversation, he was offered a position on the board – it can just that easy!

Replicating this success is essential. It begins by first understanding what organisations you want and can be appointed to (your targets). Once you have done this then it is a relatively simple process of defining the people you need to develop relationships with in order to position yourself for an appointment with that company/organisation. 

We map this out and help you to implement what you learn in the Executive Package we offer. 

How can we help?

Developing a list of your current and potential weak ties, plus how to reach out to them, is a critical element of our NEW Board Appointment Training series. The series comprises of 8+ hours of hands-on training and is included in our Executive Membership Package.

About the Author

David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Direction – Australia’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world

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