Forget Squad Goals, You Need a Personal Board of Directors

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Good friends always have our back, offer honest and trusted opinions, and can be counted on for that extra empowering boost. Imagine applying the same ideas to your professional life, rolling into the boardroom with the confidence and support of a stellar team of experts and cheerleaders. Your personal life already has an entourage, or squad, or crew; your professional life deserves a board of directors.

What is a personal board of directors?

A board of directors is a group of goal-oriented professionals who work together to guide the mission and processes of a company or organization—both large, like a corporation, or small, like a local library. A personal board of directors works toward helping you achieve success, offering perspective, advice, and a sounding board for the business of YOU.

I want a personal board of directors. Where do I begin?

First, know what you want to achieve, and the general steps you need to get there. Then think about what kind of network you’ll need to help you reach this goal. A personal board of directors doesn’t do the work for you; they offer support and guidance along the way, either with positive encouragement, networking connections, analytical perspectives or differing ideas.

It’s okay if your goal is nebulous or lofty right now, because the focus will narrow and become clearer as your ideas become more solid. A personal board of directors helps clarify those steps along the way, pointing out angles and options and helping you make the best decision at each crossroad.

Who should I include on my personal board of directors?

After you’ve made your list of prospective participants, consider what you are asking of each person. Don’t forget that being actively invested in someone else’s career is an unpaid job that requires time and energy that each person is willing giving to you. The level of involvement or help each person can offer will ebb and flow, so be prepared to be flexible and accommodating. That being said, some people to consider for your personal board of directors include:

  • Someone in your professional field, who understands the nuances and politics of the industry. A mentor within a professional organization you belong can offer an insider’s take, as well as help make fruitful connections that serve the industry and you.
  • Someone with more professional experience than you, who has had positions you can relate to or aspire to. Perhaps they have similar backgrounds and education, or have worked through a scenario that you will deal with. Experience breeds wisdom.
  • Someone who approaches things differently from you. If you’re not a numbers person, or like to think big picture, finding an analytical thinker can help you see the angles and points-of-view that you might otherwise miss. Being able to communicate and collaborate with people of different learning styles is a skill always worth strengthening.
  • Someone who is encouraging and positive, but not a “yes-person”. Optimism loves company as much as misery. Having someone with a buoyant outlook helps keep the energy on improvement, and the focus on progress.

Who should I not include?

  • Your mom. Or your significant other. Or anyone who’s opinion of you and your actions is too biased. A personal board of directors is a place for pragmatic, thoughtful career planning. Unfortunately, their blind devotion to your happiness can be a distracting hurdle. Let your mom or significant other be loving and supportive in their own way.
  • Your boss. Your relationship with your manager already has a power dynamic, and including him or her into your long-term career goals may not mesh well with your current status. Like personal relationships, it is smart to keep people who are too closely linked to you from being too involved in your professional plans. One day, your boss might be a great addition to your personal board of directors, but not when your daily work is under their management.

How do I set a up a personal board of directors?

Once the purpose is decided and a shortlist is made, send an email. In a friendly way, communicate your plans and what you hope to gain from that person being invested in your professional future. Set up times to chat and check in, what kind of insights you hope to glean from their experiences, and their preferred way to work together. Be considerate that other people’s schedules and obligations might not mesh with what you expect, and find ways to be flexible and gracious.  

Building a dream team of professional experts who are invested in your career takes time, thoughtful consideration, and adaptability, but the wealth of knowledge and insights gained are limitless.