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You never know why they want you on a Board

I have been on the Board of CPP for 16 years.  CPP Inc., owns the publishing rights to the Meyers Briggs Type Instrument (MBTI), the most widely used personality test in the world. During my tenure the company has expanded internationally, purchased three companies and bought the IP rights to two additional instruments.  The amazing growth has not been without its challenges, the most significant being the untimely death of the incumbent CEO  about 10 years ago.

The experience has been tremendous for me – I have learned so much about governance, publishing and organizational development.  It is no wonder I want to pursue more board roles. That said, I don’t know that I can replicate the process that earned me the CPP role.

When I was approached to join the CPP Board it was 1998.  M Squared had been on the Inc 500  list several times as well as the SF Business Times list of the fastest growing companies in the Bay Area.  I was experiencing that glow of a high growth CEO that was firing on all cylinders.  (Of course 2001 was right around the corner, but who knew that then…)  I presumed that it was my managing growth expertise that prompted the call. In my various interviews at the firm, we discussed future growth plans quite a bit, which further supported my notion as to why this opportunity came to me.

Several years later I discovered the truth. At a board offsite we were all sharing our stories about how we ended up there.  When I provided my rationale, the CEO laughed and said I didn’t quite have it right.

It turned out that he had seen me speak about my entrepreneurial journey  at the Governor’s Conference for Women in 1998.  In my remarks I spoke about the work I had done in the community, specifically my role as on the Board of the Hamilton Family Center, San Francisco’s (then) only homeless shelter for families.  I sheepishly admitted that I had been on that board for six years.  The president mused that if I could put up with all of the drama a homeless shelter had to offer, I could certainly put up with them,  and  since CPP was all about “making people better”, my humanitarian leanings played well.  Plus, what a bonus that my business was in the human capital space.

I was a bit surprised by the discovery of why I had been chosen, but gratified too.  It is wonderful to discover that all of our experiences contribute to our expertise, not just the ones that have the highest profile.  Maybe I will get my next Board role the same way…

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