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How to Develop a Personal Board of Directors for Leadership Success

Whether in the private or public sector, creating your own personal board of directors can help you lead more powerfully, no matter what stage you’re in. In a recent article, CEO Alberto Aguilar discussed the value of creating his personal board of directors and how that’s proven to enhance his effectiveness as a leader.

A personal board of directors consists of trusted people who can provide you with insight into your blind spots (we all have them), your knowledge gaps (as you grow, you create them) and the opportunity to level up your skills (an ongoing pursuit of excellence).

In my recent past as CEO of my own consulting firm, it was important for me to surround myself with driven entrepreneurs who would challenge and inspire me. I accomplished this by joining a mastermind group. A mastermind group is a group of individuals who come together in pursuit of similar personal goals. Masterminds date back to the days of the industrialists, like Carnegie and Rockefeller. These heavyweights would meet and discuss ways to improve their business along with improving society through work, services and products.

Why were these mastermind groups important? There’s an old saying, “You can’t know what you don’t know.” However, someone who has that knowledge can help you see what you don’t know, and can connect you with the means to close the gap quickly. Short of finding and joining a mastermind group, you can meet this challenge by developing your own board of directors. Constructed carefully, this group of advisers can provide you with honest and unbiased feedback and help you know what you don’t know.

How do you get started?

Identify individuals who are a step ahead of where you currently are.

  • That means you already know that they know more than you. Don’t let that intimidate you. Let it be an opportunity to help you move forward, faster. This could be a leader in your department whom everyone looks to for their expertise. Ask if they’d be willing to mentor you. The best leaders are always willing to uplift those who ask.

Connect with an external professional coach or mentor.

  • Look for coaches and mentors outside your agency, perhaps in the private sector who have a clear and abiding commitment to working with individuals to improve their personal and professional skills. For example, if you want to be a better strategist, look for a coach who helps you see around corners and create effective strategies. If you want to be a better influencer, consider a sales coach. You will get keen insights, actions and results when working with a professional who has your interests in mind and is unafraid of giving you honest feedback.

How large do you want your board of directors to grow? Beware. You don’t want a committee of 10 to provide you with guidance. You must be able to sift and sort through the advice you’re given. At the end of the day, it is your choice and your career. Create a board that consists of a few very close advisers. This way you will begin to see patterns and trends in the advice you’re given, faster.

This was the approach we took in the mastermind. There were 26 of us working with a coach or mentor as a leader. However, we broke into subgroups to better support each other. Working with a large group diminished our ability to share our knowledge and expertise. We naturally came together based on business goals, current experience and expertise.

Finally, pay attention to what you’re learning and how you’re growing because of your personal board of directors. You will likely find that you’ll outgrow your initial set of advisers. This isn’t unusual. Even corporations turn over their boards when the business moves to a new level in growth. Feel free to trade out for new advisers who will enhance your growth and development.

Creating your own personal board of directors will enable you to be an impactful leader.

Interested in becoming a Featured Contributor? Email topics you’re interested in covering for GovLoop to [email protected] And to read more from our Spring 2021 Cohort, here is a full list of every Featured Contributor during this cohort.

Christine “Chris” Makell has worked for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for over four years, having held positions of increasing challenges and responsibility in that short time. She is currently a Program Analyst in the Knowledge Management & Transfer office. She joins federal service after a 28-year career in the private sector and six years as the owner of Chris Makell Consulting/Coaching working with individuals and sales teams to achieve greater success.

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