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How to Build Your Personal Board of Directors

What is an Individual Board of Directors?

It’s not the first time you’ve heard it (I know I’ve said it many times!) Your career is, well, yours. It is your responsibility to see how it grows and where it takes you. You may say that you, Inc. is the Chief Executive Officer. Being CEO brings benefits: You shape the strategic direction of U, Inc. You look at the bigger picture and focus on the why (also a recurring theme). And one of the great benefits of being a CEO is that you work with a board of directors. So, it makes sense to look to guide you in decision-making, mentor you, introduce you to people who can help, and sometimes, make sure you’re focused and headed in the right direction.

Who should be on my personal board of directors?

It can be overwhelming deciding which one you need on your PBOD. Visualize your board table and decide which chairs you need to fill at this stage in your career. Narrow it down by thinking about which forces are not part of your current arsenal. Are you getting ready to move and uncomfortable cold calling to establish relationships in your new city? There’s always that person who “knows a girl,” so you may want to think about adding a “connector.” Do you need someone to help you visualize where your industry is headed so you can make sure you’re preparing yourself for where business is headed? To make sure your skills are ready, look to your “futuristic” connections for guidance.

Focus on four to six people who can provide the strength to guide you through this time in your career. These should be people you trust, and you want to make a commitment to being your best self. Most importantly, your PBOD needs to incorporate different perspectives. This is not the time to sit around all your well wishers 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 like your personal lane change warning system—they protect you from your own blind spots.

Some examples of features you might want on your personal board:

  • Connectors/Networkers – 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 – Make sure you do what you said you were going to do
  • Futurists – people who always think about “what could happen”
  • Realistic – They want to see your business plan
  • Confidant – Like a BFF, you can hash your thoughts knowing they won’t spill your secrets
  • Your future self – in any role or situations you aspire to
  • Inventor – Brings change and innovative ideas
  • Rising Star – someone who watches with fresh eyes as they make their way up the ladder

The different thing about this board is that you will personally contact them when you need guidance.

How to support your board – and make it pay off

Like everything else in life, your PBOD will need care and nourishment. Once you’ve asked people to join your board, make sure you’re contacting 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 two-way so be sure to find out what personal strengths your directors can have.

Your PBOD is a dynamic entity and as your career develops, and changes are required, you may add new directors to your board. Tell them what strengths you expect them to bring to your table.

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

And now my favorite part. Once you’ve assembled your board, share your thoughts on why you do it and what it gives you. People change jobs frequently, and it can be difficult to find mentors. Raising awareness of this strategy can help others. and who knows? Perhaps someone will ask you to join their personal board of directors.

Kate Healy is a Financial Services Industry Executive and NextGen Advocate focused on building brands.

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