Understanding the Time Commitment for Board Roles: Managing Expectations and Responsibilities

One common query I often encounter is about the time commitment required when serving on boards. It’s essential for prospective board members to have a realistic understanding of the demands to ensure they can effectively manage their responsibilities without overcommitting. Average Time Commitment On average, serving on a board typically involves a commitment equivalent to about one day per month. This includes: Reading Board Papers: Prior to meetings, board members are expected to thoroughly review board papers. This preparation is crucial as it ensures you are well-informed and ready to engage in meaningful discussions. Attending Meetings: This encompasses the regular board meetings, which are essential for discussing strategic directions, monitoring performance, and making critical decisions. Ad-hoc Correspondence: Outside of these meetings, board members often engage in email exchanges, phone calls, and sometimes emergency meetings, depending on what issues arise. Additional Responsibilities for Chairs and Committee Members If you hold the position of Chair or if you are a member of a board committee, expect to double that commitment. Chairs have additional responsibilities, including setting agendas, leading meetings, and often being the primary point of contact for high-level stakeholders. Committee members might have extra meetings and responsibilities specific to their committee’s focus, be it audit, risk, or compensation. Balancing Commitments For those in the corporate world looking to take on external board positions, it is crucial to be mindful of your existing commitments. Board roles, while rewarding, require significant mental and cognitive investment, and overcommitting can lead to burnout and a decline in your performance across your roles. Tips for Managing Board Commitments: Prioritize: Evaluate how each board role aligns with your professional goals and personal interests. Prioritize roles that offer the most value and learning opportunities. Organize: Make use of tools and strategies to keep your responsibilities manageable. Set aside specific times for board-related reading and correspondence. Communicate: Keep open lines of communication with fellow board members and your corporate roles. Transparency about your capacities and time can help manage expectations and assist in planning. Review Regularly: Periodically assess your board commitments against your professional and personal life to ensure balance is maintained. By understanding and managing the time commitments involved in board roles, you can make the most of these opportunities without compromising your effectiveness in any area of your professional life. This balance is key to sustaining long-term, impactful contributions across all your commitments.