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How to Get Your Personal Board of Directors!

Chess Pieces- Image
Chess Pieces- Image

Do you have a personal board of directors?

Every successful company has a board of directors or governance structure that is responsible for providing the necessary oversight and direction for it to grow, perform and succeed. So, if you are the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company called you, shouldn’t you also have a personal board of directors? I first came across the concept of a personal board of directors (PBOD), while participating in a leadership development program. The concept was introduced as a key tool or strategy for professionals to use to manage their professional development and career success. Not unlike a company’s board of directors, Forbes explain that “Your personal board of directors “exists to act as a sounding board, to advise you and to provide you with feedback on your life decisions, opportunities and challenges”. This article will explain why you need a personal board of directors and offer guidelines on how you can use this tool to advance your career goals.

Why a Personal Board of Directors?

Are you feeling stuck or wondering about your next career move? Do you need advice to deal with a difficult situation at work?  A personal board of directors can help you. Throughout my career, I have benefited from having trusted advisers who have provided input, guidance, and encouragement to help me navigate crucial career decisions and manage challenging work problems. Similarly, a personal board of directors exists to:

  • Provide advice and perspectives that will help you craft a vision and strategy for your career success.
  • Hold you accountable for your actions and behaviors, as you work towards executing key activities relating to your goals.
  • Help you identify new opportunities and provide feedback to help you to grow and improve.
  • Be an advocate for you in rooms where you don’t have an ear or a seat.

Who Should Be on Your Personal Board of Directors?

Who you select to be on your personal board of directors is critical for its success and yours. While your personal board of directors might include a friend or loved one, that should not be the main criteria for selecting the persons who will serve in these important roles. According to Harvard Business Review, “The people on your board of directors should know more than you about something, be better than you are at something, or offer different points of view. Choose people who can make different contributions to your thinking.”  Using these criteria, your board members could include a current or previous manager or a colleague you admire — or both. Regardless of your job, your PBOD should include people who are experts in your field or industry. Relying heavily friends or relatives for guidance on key career choices, will limit your ability to get the objective advice you need to pivot, grow, and take your professional development and career to the next level.  

Positions for Your Personal Board

While there is no fixed rule, your typical personal board of directors should have 3-4 members with the following roles or positions:

  • Coach:  By asking powerful questions, this is the person(s) who will engage you in deep and reflective conversations about your behaviors and actions. Your coach will provide feedback that might be uncomfortable to hear and help you to deepen your self-awareness by holding up a mirror to yourself.
  • Mentor: This is someone senior to you that you respect and trust. Your mentor(s) should have experience in navigating an area you are struggling with or have expertise on a subject that you aspire to grow or upskill.
  • Sponsor: This is a person of influence at your current organization. Your sponsor’s role is to look out for you, spot trends, and help you make connections to expand your professional network and boost your visibility and impact at work.
  • Peer Mentor: This is a trusted colleague that supports you and is always willing to lend a helping hand. Your peer mentor should be someone you often share, learn and collaborate with.

When it comes to putting your board together, bigger does not always mean better. The roles you choose might depend on your specific career goals. Ultimately, the size of your PBOD will depend on your needs and the availability of the people in your network to support you in this regard. It is also important to note that your PBOD does not need to meet at any one time. The key is to consult each member of your board when you have important career decisions to make, and when you need help with coming up with a plan of action.

Directional -Signs- Image
Directional -Signs- Image

Guidelines to Build Your Personal Board of Directors

I have utilized my personal board of directors at crucial stages of my career. I remember a few years ago when I was struggling to stay engaged at work due to a hurtful work situation. I shared my challenge with my coach, and our monthly conversations were instrumental in helping me move past the discouragement I was feeling and get back on track with my goals.  Similarly, my current mentor was the hiring manager for a job I interviewed for and failed to get. After the interview, I reached out to him for feedback to help me prepare for my next opportunity. That conversation led to me asking him if he would be my mentor and he agreed. Since then, he has helped me to come up with strategies to navigate challenges in my current role.

Over the last few years, I have had a few sponsors at different levels of my organization. My sponsors have provided leads and opportunities for me to make important connections to expand my network and increase visibility for the work I do. My peer mentors remain a source of ongoing learning, shared collaborations, and encouragement.

So, are you ready to set up your personal board of directors?

Forbes offers some guidelines that you can use to put your board of director in place:

  1. Choose people who you regularly keep in touch with, so when you ask for their help, it feels like a natural partnership to them. It is also important to build rapport and maintain positive relationships with them.
  2. Once they have agreed to serve on your board, let them know that you appreciate their guidance and will carefully consider it, whether you follow their advice or not. You should also let your PBOD members know how their assistance helped you with a decision or moved you closer to achieving your career goal.
  3. Since serving on your board is an unpaid role, think of ways that you can give back to your board. Think about what you can do for them or who you can introduce them to. You can also offer to help them out with a project that you are skilled in.
  4. Respect your PBOD’s time. Establish what their availability looks like from the start, the most convenient time to meet and the best channel to use to stay in touch. When you do meet, be prepared, and have clear objectives for the check in.

Finally, your career and professional development are serious matters and should be treated as such. Surround yourself with the right people who have the experience, expertise and connections to help you position yourself to level up!

Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!

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That Commitment Thing….

comit 2Making a commitment is sometimes easy, but staying committed is most times hard. This is true of most commitments, whatever their shape or form. Nonetheless, at the start of a New Year, many people declare themes, set goals and share resolutions about what they hope to achieve in the long and short-term. Unfortunately though, some people are permanent non-starters, and their plans stay in their heads, on the papers they were written on, and/or are soon forgotten. Others might actually launch their plans with much enthusiasm, but fizzle out by the end the first month. For the remaining few, it is often a struggle to stay the course, juggle competing priorities and honor their commitments.

I am no different from those persons who struggle to stay committed to my goals. I started 2014 declaring ‘Increase’, as the theme that would guide my personal and professional goals for the year. I set lofty goals and plans to publish my Blog and post weekly, gain professional certification, pursue career advancement, lose weight, and the list goes on. For a while, I made steady progress with my goals and was feeling quite accomplished, as I successfully managed to balance everything. Suddenly, distractions and curve balls popped up everywhere. My rhythm was disrupted, and I began struggling to cope with all the changes, and challenges coming my way. Inevitably, I was unable to keep up with all the things I needed to do, planned to do, wanted to do, and some things started to slide. Blogging and exercising were the first activities to go, as did my little social life, while work, interviewing and studying competed aggressively for time. Fortunately though, I weathered this rough and difficult period, achieved some important goals (professional certification, career advancement) and things have begun to settle quite nicely.

Despite  my recent successes, I’m still struggling to stay committed to  my other goals. You would probably think that, success in one area of your life would automatically motivate you to push forward with your other goals. However, this is not always the case. The truth is, the road to success can be so tiring, time-consuming, energy sapping that, after you’ve succeeded in meeting a goal all you feel is relief. Relief and a strong desire to do nothing … nothing but pause, watch mindless TV, read books with titles you can’t remember, sleep, or just lie in the dark for hours of a time as you ponder what to do next.

comitThis recent experience made me think of  other people who are struggling to stay committed to the goals they’ve set. Year after year, many people struggle in their efforts to find that new job, buy that house, save to take that vacation, start or finish that degree, lose the weight and/or overcome a physical or health challenge. To the onlooker, they might seem to be failing in their efforts, but that picture of slow/no progress does not tell the full  story. At times, these people grapple with matters of survival, risk becoming  “burnt out”, and find it difficult to stay focused. Overtime, the lack of progress in meeting their goals can result in feelings of frustration, weaken their  resolve, and ultimately lead to disinterest in continuing to pursue said goals. In turn, this can fuel feelings such as inadequacy, which  further prevent them from moving forward, or even picking up where they might have dropped off.

So from one ‘struggler’ to the next, I urge you to not give up. Keep pursuing your goals. It doesn’t matter how far behind you are, or how late in the year it is, your goals are still important. Therefore, as you tackle your own life situations, here are some helpful reminders for you:

  1. Establish your priorities: Avoid being/becoming a slave to self-ambition,and spreading yourself too thinly. When you begin to feel  overly stretched and stressed, focus on the one or two activities that are likely to produce the most meaningful impact in terms or that important goal. Anything else is untenable.
  2. Put a plan in place: While it good to dream, our plans should be realistic and practical. Do not set yourself up to fail by setting goals that aren’t S.M.A.R.T.
  3. Pause and pace yourself: Give yourself some downtime. Watch a movie, read a book, or simply  do something that relaxes you. This will help you to either keep the balance in your life, or find it.
  4. Finish at least one thing and cut yourself some slack: You should always strive to put your best foot forward in whatever you do. But, bear in mind that your best effort at a particular point might be far from perfect. In these instances, do your best, learn the lesson(s), and accept the result(s).
  5. Assess yourself and your motives: Often times, the pursuit of a goal or plan can become so intense that you begin to feel burdened  by the fear of failing, or what people might say or think. If and when this happens, pause and ask yourself Why am I doing this? Does the goal still serve me or am I serving the goal? The goal should always serve you and reflect your best interest –not anyone else’s. If it doesn’t, forget it.
  6. Have a good support system: There are times when you will need to vent your frustrations and fears as you encounter difficulties. Lean on your friends and family. They will give you the much-needed encouragement you need to keep going even when you feel you can’t.
  7. Practice some self-discipline: Nothing worth having comes easy. Just ask the successful people you know. You will have to work tirelessly to meet your goals, and  honour your commitments whatever they are.

As the wise Jamaican Proverb says, “If yuh waan good yuh nose haffi run”.

Translation:  If you want good your nose has to run.

Meaning:  In order to achieve success you  will have to make sacrifices and/or work hard.

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