If you want to be a good leader, it’s imperative that you cultivate a strong sense of self-awareness. In order to be an example to others, you need to know as much as you can about your own strengths and weaknesses, so you can leverage and improve upon them. It’s impossible to see yourself clearly, but with some an introspection, an open mind, and the help of others, you can do a decent job of becoming transparent to yourself. One of the most powerful tools for expanding your self-awareness is to put together what I call “a personal board of directors.”
What is a personal board of directors? Exactly what it sounds like. All publicly traded companies and most private companies have a board of directors to help steer the ship. Why can’t individuals have the same? You can. I have done it for years to help me grow as an individual and in my career.
The idea is to assemble a group of trusted, objective advisors who will help you see yourself clearly, expand your skills and thinking, and hold you accountable for the personal and organizational goals you set. Over the years, when I have presented the leadership program on which my book is based to different groups, I have consistently found that this is one of the most popular topics and the one that people have the most questions about no matter the industry, function, or level of experience. The response tells me that people are actively looking for ways to better understand how they can grow and get better at what they do. They just need help doing it. The following steps will help you get started in forming your personal board of directors:
1) Get clear about your goals: In order to determine who will make the best mentors to include on your personal board of directors, you need to know what your long-term goals are. Think about the skills you’d like to develop and the milestones you’d like to achieve. Begin by asking yourself the same kind of question you might get in a job interview: Where do I see myself in five to ten years?
2) Target three to five people: Any fewer and you won’t have the benefit of a range of perspectives; any more and you have too many perspectives to consider—you don’t want to have such a large board that you end up having to take time away from your job to manage the relationships and internalize the feedback.
3) Make sure board members can help you realize your goals: Think about how each person you are considering will help you fulfill those wants and needs. Are they individuals who you believe have achieved the goals you’re shooting for? Do they have the right kind of experience to give you the feedback and guidance you need?
4) Meet regularly and with intention: Make meetings a regular part of your schedule. Whether the agenda is loose or structured, make sure you give it some thought beforehand and come to each meeting prepared. Don’t waste your board members’ time or your own.
5) Give back: To sustain the relationship, keep it balanced. Look for ways you can give back to your board members, returning the favor for the time and wisdom they are spending on you.
Keep evaluating your needs: Your needs today and your needs five years from now are not going to be the same. Or, you may have gotten all you can out of a particular board member. Allow the relationships to evolve and your board to evolve so that you are always getting the most out of them.
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