One of the best ways to help you navigate the rough waters of your job and career is to have your own support network – a personal board of advisors. This board of advisors (or board of directors, as some call it) is a collection of about 6 to 10 people who know you, are interested in your well-being, and provide useful points of view to assist you in moving forward in your career and in other areas of your life. This board of advisors is essentially a group of mentors, peers, friends, and possibly a leadership coach or a career coach.
To identify your personal board of advisors, think about the types of advice that might assist you, some new perspectives that you should probably gain, and who can provide it. Start by listing the names of people who have assisted you in the past by giving you useful advice and offering new insights. Consider people who inspire you, support your values and/or your vision, and believe in you. In thinking of potential board members, focus on the person, not their job title.
A diversity of backgrounds and perspectives is also important when forming your personal board of advisors. What are the special attributes that they should bring to the table? You might want individuals who serve one or more of these roles:
Sage – Someone who provides you with expert advice and wisdom based on their direct previous experience.
Clarifier – Someone who asks you keen questions to help raise your awareness and see with new eyes.
Brainstormer – Someone who lends a strong hand in identifying the possibilities and your options.
Iconoclast – Someone who thinks outside the box and doesn’t always offer the conventional wisdom.
Connector – Someone who knows everyone and can help lead you to others.
Challenger – Someone who serves as a devil’s advocate in challenging your plans and your thinking.
Cheerleader – Someone who boosts your spirits, especially when things are not going as you had planned.
Accountability Enforcer – Someone who helps to ensure that you follow through on your commitments.
Joker – Someone who brings you back to earth when needed and reminds you not to take yourself too seriously.
Champion – Someone who advocates for you and trumpets your abilities and accomplishments.
A personal board with all of these voices will likely serve you well.
When you reach out to prospective members of your advisory board, consider whether you wish to be explicit about their position on your board. Some people will likely be flattered if you ask them directly to serve on your personal board. Other people might be wary of the time and energy commitment associated with the role of “advisor.” As long as the individuals are willing to connect with you and provide you with valuable advice and support, you don’t always have to tell them directly that you consider them to be on your “personal board of advisors.” You’ll need to make that decision based on your preferred approach as well as the likely reaction of each prospective advisor you plan to recruit onto your board.
Next, decide how you would like to engage your board. For example, you could set aside one day each month on your calendar to connect via email or phone. Or you could schedule lunch, coffee, or another get-together with each advisor every couple of months or so. You also could decide to convene your board as a group for a scheduled meeting. This approach obviously works best in the case where you have been explicit with them about the advisor role and the level of commitment to serve on your board. Regardless of your approach, you should consult all of your advisors at least every 6 months.
Lastly, remember that you receive by giving. Don’t treat your board of advisors as a free, one-way advice machine. In your interactions with the members of your board, find out how you might be able to assist them as well.
Do you have a personal board of advisors?