Nancy M. Dahl is no stranger to board service. Over the past 17 years, she has served on 13 boards, from young companies to companies with $750 million in revenue. A highly regarded director, Dahl currently serves on five private corporate boards.
For Dahl, board service is the next chapter after a successful executive career. From her roots in small-town Minnesota manufacturing to more recent executive roles with Lifetouch and Tastefully Simple, Dahl has shared her experiences and insights as a TEDx speaker, strategic advisor and award-winning author. Her expertise in market risk and growth, acquisition strategies, and identifying opportunities for innovation to maintain marketplace relevancy helps ensure company strategic plans prepare their operations for the future.
As Dahl recently was honored for her contributions to numerous private corporations as an Outstanding Director by Twin Cities Business magazine, she reflected on the steps she took to transition from her executive role to board service.
“Learning to be fit for the future for board service takes preparation and intentional focus,” said Dahl. “Working with Navigate Forward helped me translate my executive experience, tell my story from a board perspective and enable world class director performance.”
Stand Out Through Excellent Thought Leadership
As she transitioned from management into board roles, Dahl partnered with Navigate Forward to identify her unique value-adds and to explore the importance of supporting organizations through her guidance and strategy. The Board Readiness program was integral to her reflection.
“Understanding your value from a board perspective and learning to tell the story is better done with a team like Navigate Forward,” said Dahl. “Creating a compelling board bio is a critical first step in the process of finding the right board for you; don’t leave it to chance.”
With Navigate Forward’s guidance, Dahl intentionally sought out thought leadership opportunities in multiple sectors. With experience in five industries, Dahl shared ideas around leadership, change and innovation, subjects which provide value beyond her organization and industry.
“Nancy had a broad and successful career which gave her the foundation, experience and credibility to be a great director,” said Anne Sample, CEO of Navigate Forward. “She was very thoughtful in her approach to positioning herself for board roles. She has clearly brought enormous value to the organizations that she serves.”
Board Work Requires a Different Application of Skills Acquired
The transition from executive to board member is not straightforward. Defining the boundaries within a board position requires balance. The role is not to resolve day-to-day concerns or to point out management problems.
“For the majority of our clients, the key is to pivot and translate accomplishments from those of an operator to put more emphasis on the thought leadership that was demonstrated in those roles,” said Sample.
Enabled by her Board Readiness consultant, Dahl reflected on the potential of her service role – what she could bring to the table, which of her interests aligned to the work, how her expertise qualified her for the work, and finally what she expected in return for her time.
“Navigate Forward helped me understand my value, develop clarity and put intentional focus into my board search,” Dahl said.
With a focus on more long-term strategy, the board service role is to facilitate conversation among the management team. Dahl ensures company management remains aligned with their goals by asking thought-provoking questions, challenging management to consider issues from new angles.
“I don’t ever pretend to be the teacher with all the answers,” Dahl said. “That’s not possible in today’s world, but if you’re curious and ask thoughtful questions, you have the potential to be an awesome director.”
Start Your Board Journey. Whether you’re ready to add value beyond your day job, or considering an encore career, Navigate Forward can help you achieve your goals. Learn more about the Board Readiness program.