Personal Board of Directors

A piece of advice I received early in my career was to develop a personal “board of directors”. The idea is to identify and connect with a small (5-10) group of mentors and peers that can offer you advice.

 

I think the analogy is an interesting one and is worth considering. It extends and makes a little more tangible the idea of “mentors”. We’re all told to go find mentors for advice. But what does that really mean? Can one or two wise, well intentioned people really tell you everything you need to know? My experience has been that they can’t.

 

The idea then is to put together a conceptual committee that can collectively offer outside perspectives on key questions. You can build it along whatever lines make sense to you. My rough categories include:

 

1.      Common sense committee

 

A favorite sports columnist of mine (Bill Simmons of ESPN.com) once wrote an extensive column on the need for sports franchises to anoint a “Vice President of Common Sense”.  I try to apply this to business. Find people you know that you think have good judgment and get their opinions on big things. Just get a smell test.

 

2.      Audit committee (ethics)

 

Who do you trust to give you a straight picture on right and wrong when things get murky. It’s important to find trustworthy confidants to run things past. Your compass won’t always be pointing in a clear direction, so get a little help calibrating.

 

3.      Analytics committee

 

Are there people you know who challenge your thinking? Then get their take on sticky analytical problems.

 

4.      Career & Compensation committee

 

Who can help you with career questions? Find a small set of people you think are astute politically and can help with thinking through career transitions and compensation questions.

 

5.      Life balance committee

 

Who can challenge your thinking on whether you are spending your time appropriately and keep you grounded.

 

A few additional thoughts on committee membership: 

– Make most members non-family and not directly in your chain of command. You want honest, unbiased advice.

– Build and adjust it over time. You may not have 10 people now. That’s OK. Go with what you have available. Also, membership may shift over time.

– Get multiple perspectives on deeper questions.

– Committee memberships can be overlapping.

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