All large publicly traded companies have a board of directors. The board provides oversight to the organization and serves as a bridge between leadership and shareholders. Many smaller companies recognize the value of having a board of directors or an advisory committee and implement a similar structure to help guide their organizations.
A board of directors can serve three main purposes.
1) Establish vision, mission and values
2) Set strategy and structure
3) Support and coach the leadership
Included in these purposes are driving accountability, asking critical questions to ensure success and helping organizations make tough decisions.
In my executive coaching practice, I have applied a similar approach to helping individuals to be more effective leaders. I call it a personal board of directors (PBOD). If you are the CEO of ME Inc., then your board is a group of four to eight people who can provide advice and counsel to you. Often when coaching senior executives, I have found that having them assemble a personal board of directors is a powerful way to enhance leadership effectiveness. Below are a few steps to take to build your board.
1) Be clear on the purpose of the PBOD. What value do you hope to derive from having this group of advisors?
2) Choose wisely. Your board should not be comprised of a group of your closest friends and colleagues. You should aim to assemble a diverse group of people who know you in different ways. Some examples could include a past mentor, a vendor or customer of your business, a community leader who you have had contact with, a professor or someone you know from academia, a community volunteer that you have partnered with, a senior leader from another area of your company, a social acquaintance with a similar professional career, etc. The idea is to assemble a group of people who don’t know each other but have the common thread of each knowing you.
3) Show them what’s in it for them. Serving on a board of directors can be an educational experience for everyone involved. The PBOD members will foster new relationships and think about their own careers and development differently as a result of serving on a board. Make it clear from the start that you want this to be mutually beneficial.
4) Create a safe place for sharing. Transparency and candor are critical to an effective outcome. It is imperative that the group feel safe to share insights and feedback.
I have found that the selection process is as important as the actual board meetings. Determining who should be invited to serve on your personal board of directors and why provides an interesting look into an individual’s psyche. Vetting the potential board members often leads to interesting coaching conversations. Additionally including individuals who are respected yet sometimes adversaries can shift a relationship for the better through their inclusion on the board.
I recommend holding board meetings no more frequently than three times a year for a PBOD. The meetings are usually two to three hours in length. The goal is to provide candid feedback regarding career choices and ones approach to work and life. I have found that these meetings often lead individuals to seek out deeper meaning in their work and their life. People come to recognize that relationships are more important than job titles and that having the opportunity to do meaningful work is more rewarding than a big paycheck.
If you are feeling stuck in your career, or looking for ways to find more meaning and balance in your life then assembling a PBOD might be a great way to leverage the power of your network for mutual gain.