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Building Your Personal Board of Directors

Create the team that helps you grow and holds you accountable.

What Is a Personal Board of Directors?

This isn’t the first time you have heard it (I know I’ve said it quite a few times!) Your career is, well, yours. You have the responsibility to see how it grows and where it takes you. You could say that you are the chief executive officer of YOU, Inc. Being the CEO offers advantages: you shape the strategic direction of YOU, Inc. You look at the big picture and focus on the why (also a recurring theme). And one big advantage of being CEO is that you work with a board of directors. So, it makes sense that YOU, Inc. has a personal board of directors (PBOD) to guide you in making decisions, give you advice, introduce you to people who can help, and occasionally, give you a slight kick to make sure you are focused and heading in the right direction.

Who Should Be on My Personal Board of Directors?

It can be overwhelming to decide who you need on your PBOD. Visualize your board table and decide what chairs you need to fill at this stage in your career. Narrow it down by thinking about what strengths are not part of your current arsenal. Are you getting ready to relocate and feel uncomfortable cold calling to establish relationships in your new city? There is always that person that “knows a gal,” so you may want to think about adding a “connector.” Do you need someone to help you envision where your industry is heading so that you can ensure you are preparing yourself for where the business is going? Look to your “futurist” connections for guidance to ensure your skill set is ready.

Focus on the four to six people that can provide strengths to guide you, for this time in your career. These should be people you trust, and you want to make a commitment to being your best self with. Most importantly, your PBOD needs to include diverse points of view. This isn’t the time for all your besties to sit around and tell you how great you or your idea is. You want people who are going to poke holes in your plans. Think of them as your personal lane change warning system—they save you from your own blind spots.

Some examples of the characteristics of those you want on your personal board:

  • Connector/Networker—can introduce you to people who can introduce you to people who can introduce you to people, who, well, you get the idea
  • Accountability Partner—makes sure you do what you said you were going to do
  • Futurist—the people who are always thinking about “what could be”
  • Realist—they want to see your business plan
  • Confidante—like a BFF, you can hash out your ideas knowing they won’t spill your secrets
  • Your future self—someone in a role or circumstances you aspire to
  • Innovator—brings change and innovative ideas
  • Rising star—someone who sees with fresh eyes as they make their way up the ladder

What is different about this board is that you will reach out to them individually when you need guidance.

How to Support Your Board—and Pay it Forward

Like everything else in life, your PBOD will need care and feeding. Once you have asked people to be on your board, make sure you are reaching out to them at regular intervals to share goals, get feedback and provide updates on how things are going, especially where they have helped you. Relationships like this are a two-way street so make sure to explore where your personal strengths can help your directors.

Your PBOD is a dynamic entity and as your career develops, and needs change, you may add new directors to your board. Let them know what strengths you expect them to bring to your table.

This also means you may no longer need some of your directors. Be transparent about what needs have shifted and share the successes they have helped you achieve. A nice gift wouldn’t hurt either.

And now my favorite part. Once you have assembled your board, share your thoughts on why you do this and what you get from it. People change jobs often, and mentors can be hard to find. Raising awareness of this strategy can help others. And who knows? Perhaps someone will ask you to be on their own personal board of directors.

Kate Healy is a financial services industry executive and NextGen advocate, focused on building brands.

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