Companies have a board of directors to provide high-level oversight of corporate activities and performance. These boards, among their many roles, are integral to ensuring companies run efficiently, lawfully and profitably.
4 Benefits of a Personal Board of Advisors
- Their guidance will make you stronger as an individual, professionally and personally.
- A board’s broad expertise can accelerate professional development and growth.
- They provide access to well-rounded advice and innovative solutions.
- Caring and invested individuals will support and guide you as you advance in your career, make professional changes and navigate rough spots.
So why don’t people think more like this for their personal and professional development? We all want to perform to our full potential, so why not create your own board of advisors to ensure you do?
This isn’t just about mentorship. Individuals seek mentors throughout their lives to advise them on a specific path to reach their ultimate career goals and professional titles. Don’t get me wrong, mentors are important, but why stop there? A personal board of advisors is a powerful accelerator of personal and professional growth. Top performers should actively seek this broader level of support on a more formal basis.
How to Choose Your Advisors
The individuals you choose for your personal board will be unique to you, based on your career, experience, talents and critical areas for growth. For example, a product manager will tap into very different talents for their professional development than a salesperson or marketing professional.
Having these types of people surrounding you only makes you stronger as an individual with expertise to tap into at any given time, but the key is that they know you, meaning they’re fully invested in your growth and development professionally and personally. Below are some thoughts, ideas and strategies to develop your personal board of advisors.
Define Your Goals
An integral first step is understanding your objectives. Once you know your career goals, you can select individuals in your field, industry, or area of expertise.
If career advancement tops your list, you might select professionals who have held positions that you would like to hold one day to understand and learn from their journey, insights, and valuable connections in navigating your field's complexities. In contrast, for business ventures, entrepreneurs, investors, or industry experts can offer strategic insights.
Many combine these goals, blending career guidance with personal development or business acumen. Recognizing evolving objectives is essential, ensuring your adaptable board aligns with your goals at different stages of your journey.
Identify areas of expertise
The next crucial step is defining the specific expertise you require. Consider this as drafting a blueprint for the skills and knowledge you want your advisors to possess.
Your board’s effectiveness hinges on the diversity and depth of expertise within it. Compile a comprehensive list of desired skills, spanning industries and encompassing areas like entrepreneurship, leadership, technology, marketing, legal, finance and more. A broad spectrum of expertise equips your board to provide well-rounded advice and innovative solutions to address diverse challenges and opportunities.
Diversity in your advisory team extends beyond demographics, encompassing a broad array of backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints. This ensures a well-rounded advisory board capable of offering innovative solutions and poignant insight.
When forming your board, recruit individuals from various walks of life, industries and careers, each with unique insights. Their distinct viewpoints can challenge your thinking, expose you to new approaches and foster unconventional problem-solving.
Begin by defining criteria aligned with your goals. Then explore your network, including former colleagues, mentors, family, friends and their connections.
Attend networking events to meet potential advisors and conduct thorough research on prospects you may not know well — or even ones you think you know — by examining their professional history and achievements. Ensure compatibility and engage advisors who share enthusiasm for your goals and mission. A key element here is that they’re invested in you and your success.
Recruit your team
This sounds formal (and could be, depending on where you are in your career), but your “ask” could simply be a conversation to let someone know you would like their support on your journey. That includes letting them know how you’re defining and assembling your advisors and the type of support you might reach out for.
Share the areas where you think they can support you and ask them what they think would support you. Discuss mutual benefits — how can you support them?
Additionally, provide clarity around time expectations. This shouldn’t be a daily or time-consuming role for them, but there will be times you will want to reach out. Let them know how excited and appreciative you are for their support. You’re fortunate to have them. Let them know you understand that.
How to Use Your Board of Advisors
Once you have recruited your advisors, use them wisely to grow professionally and personally and make the best use of your time, and theirs.
Respect their time
Respecting any advisor’s time is vital for productive relationships, so prepare for meetings with clear agendas, stay on topic to maximize efficiency and provide relevant materials in advance to help them prepare. If you’re going over on time, wrap up or ask about how much more time they can give you that day.
Follow up each interaction with an emailed or hand-written thank you (not just a text). This shows respect and allows you to express your appreciation along with what you took away from the conversation.
Be open to feedback
A core role of your board is building your self-awareness. Positive reinforcement and encouragement are great, but often what you need is tougher feedback. In fact, you want to ensure your board will provide constructive information, as being able to see what you need to work on is key to growth. Be receptive to their observations, thoughts, and ideas.
Keep it dynamic
To maintain the vitality of your advisors, adaptability is key. As your goals and circumstances evolve, consider these strategies:
- Contemplate rotations introducing fresh perspectives and expertise.
- Assess changing needs and recruit advisors with relevant skills.
- Keep your network active with potential advisors on hand and encourage open communication between advisors about board dynamics and composition.
- Periodically evaluate your board's performance to identify areas for improvement.
Embracing these practices ensures your advisory team remains agile and effective in steering your growth.
Even when you’re not actively reaching out to them, let your team know how everything is going. Sustaining active engagement with your personal board is essential for maximizing the benefits of their expertise. Staying engaged nurtures a supportive, enduring relationship that continually enhances your overall development.
Act on their advice
Effectively implementing the advice provided is pivotal to reaping its full rewards. Begin by listening to their insights, understanding the context and seeking clarity when needed. Then prioritize recommendations based on their relevance and potential impact on your personal and professional growth. Embrace each piece of advice as an opportunity for learning and adapt your strategies as needed.
A key element to note here is that we tend to tap into support when things aren’t going well, whether it’s a rough patch with a new leader, getting laid off, working with a new client or entering a new role. But the reality is that your personal board should be identified and put in place today to guide you when all is going great.
Building strong relationships with advisors takes time and trust. During prosperous periods, you can cultivate these relationships without the urgency that often accompanies a crisis, which can lead to deeper, more meaningful connections with your advisors.