A Personal Board of Directors

Cultivate trusted circles

A few weeks back, I posted on LinkedIn an idea that seemed to click. The post was about the concept of creating a personal board of directors:

I find tremendous value in having a “personal board of directors”. 

Cultivate a trusted circle of former or current colleagues, advisors, networkers, and even a critic or two that you can bounce ideas off of, help you with professional development or provide some clarity to major decisions. 

This group needs to be able to give you honest feedback; and more importantly you need to be able to take it.

You’re not in this alone, and seeking guidance isn’t weakness; it’s perspective.

I had several people reach out to me, so I thought it would be useful to get additional thoughts in a place with an unexpected mid-week post with more thinking on the concept.

What is a “personal board”

The idea of a 'personal board of directors' (PBOD?) is not one I invented but something that I have found incredibly valuable for me when making decisions, working through a hard task, or navigating career and leadership challenges. 

Truth be told - I can't even remember where I learned of this from, but the idea is similar to how a board of directors function at a company: they are your support team.

This isn't a typical board though - I'm not suggesting formally invite people to join your board (they may not even know it exists) — the members probably will never even meet, and they don't work as part of a team.

Corollary : I once held an event, aptly called "MakoCamp", where I brought a bunch of these directors together for a day of no-agenda discussion. It was amazing and probably deserves it’s own post.

The board is personal. It's for you, by you.

The key to having a successful board is rooted in the concept that "you don't know the answer to everything". Check your ego at the door. 

Who should be on your board?

Here's some ideas on who you should populate your board with (and by no means is this complete). You want to find individuals that you trust, those that will have different opinions, are willing to listen and help answer questions, be a sounding board, play devil's advocate., etc.:

Some ideas on who could be a good "board member":

  • Diversity - You want to have people on the board with different backgrounds, both professionally and personally. Different fields are awesome, with that diversity will come better advice and perspectives.

    • For example - if you're in engineering, have someone who is a lawyer on the board. You’ll find their struggles and challenges provide you with new insight.

  • Dynamic - You want the board to expand and collapse based on where you are in life or a decision.

    • For example, if you are exploring a life change, the board needs to be larger. If you're exploring a technical solution, perhaps that's a smaller group.

  • Mentors and Peers - always great to have people in the mix that you want to learn from, as well as former or current colleagues.

  • A critic - do not surround yourself with "yes" people. Or overtly negative people. But you want someone in there who will have a different (not negative) viewpoint.

  • Family - dont do it. Bias is too big with family. Just saying. :)

I wouldn't approach someone with "hey, do you want to be on my board of directors..." (that’s weird); this is more of a process for your mind and for yourself. 

In closing..

There isn't a right or wrong way to do this.

My only advice is that you find a way that works for you. Use the board to challenge yourself to grow and how have to pay it forward.

Be there for them.

Thank them (hand-written notes are amazing!). 

Having a group of individuals that can encourage you, challenge ideas, support and uplift you will help you in the long run grow both personally and professionally.

The trust in others will help push you along the journey to amazing places that you never realized you needed to go.