No matter the size of your business, no matter your role in business, you need a Personal Board of Directors.
If you’re an entrepreneur or executive level, when I say this, your thoughts likely go to stock and shares and voting rights and scary things that involve giving away power.
Take a deep breath, note that I said Personal Board of Directors.
A traditional Board of Directors has specific duties to advise on and approve business matters, they are compensated by shares in the company. The intention being that multiple, diverse perspectives with a stake in the outcome are brought together to influence the growth and direction of the business.
Imagine how powerful it would be to have that sort of mentorship directed at you as an individual. It’s possible, you simply have to ask for it.
The first step is to check in with yourself – what sort of reaction do you have when I say you simply have to ask for people to help you? The power of asking and being willing to receive is a whole other topic. If needed, deal with that before you go through the rest of this article.
As an Intuitive Strategist there are times where a decision feels right but I need validation and outside input. This is when my Personal Board of Directors has become an invaluable resource. In my case, this is a group of five people (an old manager, a community leader, a very old friend, a past teacher and a peer from the entrepreneur community) who have all agreed to be there when I need an outside perspective. When I call them for Board advice they listen to me differently, rather than assuming I’m venting or just chatting, they know I’m sharing things with them in hopes that they can provide additional insights. And they always have great insights.
As you consider this concept for yourself, it’s important to keep in mind, only take advise from those you would be willing to trade places with. For example, around the water cooler you mention you had a spat with your spouse and Cheryl offers some relationship advise. Consider what Cheryl’s romantic life looks like. Is she eternally single, divorced, always talking about her own marital issues? Or, does she appear to have a long-term healthy relationship you’ve always admired? When you’re contemplating your Board you want to identify people who you see as successful at life, who you wouldn’t mind trading places with.
If you’re ready to gather your own Personal Board, here’s the process that worked for me.
1. Choose your members
Start by deciding who you want to invite into your inner circle, think who you want your board members to be. I suggest starting with three to five people.
Some things to consider as you’re evaluating your social circle. Look to incorporate diversity, if everyone is just like you, having their perspective won’t be helpful. Including people with expertise in different industries or from a different walk of life can add a richness to your board. Another factor to consider as you select your board is trustworthiness. You want people who’s ethics align with yours, who will be committed to your success and will provide honest, actionable feedback. Finally, and this is huge, be sure to ask people who are successful. You’re looking for people who you aspire to be like. Like I said, I always encourage people to be careful who they take advice from.
2. Ask your members
This is important, you have to ask these people if they’re willing to be on your Personal Board. I suggest making a phone call, followed up by an email. Some things to consider that will help you to define the relationship, are things like how often will you talk, for how long? What sorts of topics will you be discussing with them (business, family, health, life)?
It can feel a bit awkward to call someone up and ask them to give you time like this, it will help if you’re willing to do something for them in return, keep things balanced. You could offer to provide the same thing in return, or perhaps you can mentor someone from their world. They may simply ask that you buy them a drink whenever you meet to chat.
The last thing I suggest you consider at this stage is a timeline. Start by asking them to be available for a specific amount of time (say 3-6 months). This will give you both some freedom because you can check in at the end of that time to see if it’s working or not.
3. Schedule Meetings
This may seem obvious, but there’s no point in going to all this trouble if you don’t put in place a structure to take advantage of your new Personal Board. I call my board as needed, but that’s after having them in place for a long time. When we first began I would talk to them each monthly, even if I didn’t think I had anything to talk to them about. I needed to build up a muscle around knowing what to ask for support with, where they could offer value. So initially, just chatting regularly about life and where I was feeling challenged gave me a chance to do that.
I’ve always met with mine via the phone, one on one. Though I do know some folks who meet in person and even someone who gets their Personal Board together at the same time on a quarterly conference call. There’s no ‘right way’, go with what feels comfortable for you.
One thing that was hard for me, at first, was the idea of talking about myself. I’d get on a scheduled call, ask how they were doing, we’d get to chatting and then I’d run out of time to tell them about my challenge and they wouldn’t have much time to offer me their perspective, we’d be rushed. To help combat that I suggest going in with a few talking points. Also, if you speak with them spontaneously, be sure to let them know you’re looking for them to interact with you as a board member (versus a friend, colleague etc.) Respect their time and yours.
As mentioned before, setting a time limit can give you both a lot of freedom. It’s important to check in with yourself, to see if you’re getting value from each person’s time, insights and perspective, as well as to check in with them, to see if they’re feeling like they’re adding value and if they can still dedicate the time to you. Don’t be afraid to simply thank them for their contribution to your world, and move on. A handwritten thank you note can be a helpful touch when ending a board/mentorship agreement.
A Personal Board does not, in my opinion, replace a coach or formal mentor.
Do you have a Personal Board already? How have they supported you? If you decide to create one after reading this, I’d very much like to hear how it goes.