Who’s on Your Personal Board of Directors?

Who’s on Your Personal Board of Directors?

If the most successful companies in the world endowed with brilliant minds have boards of directors, why can’t you?

You will encounter challenges and issues in your career. You may overlook career opportunities and possibilities. Have you considered establishing a personal board of directors to help you manage your career— your most important economic asset?

Companies establish boards of directors to help them address challenges, issues, and opportunities that may impact their value creation capability. Boards are comprised of individuals who provide expertise and diverse perspectives and experience. Boards enable companies to focus on things the company may overlook or of which the company has limited knowledge. Board members also offer second opinions.

Following are steps you can take to establish your personal board of directors to sustain or increase your capability to create personal value from your career.

  1. Identify the challenges and issues you need to address.
  2. Prioritize the challenges and issues.
  3. Define the type of assistance you need.
  4. Establish profiles for your potential board members.
  5. Recruit your board members.

Sources of information for identifying challenges and issues include:

Your time and resources are limited. How can you prioritize challenges and issues? How can you determine which ones are most important or urgent? (Which ones should be addressed first, second, third, etc?) Following are ways to determine your priorities.

  • Assign priorities based on the relative importance you designate for qualifications in your Target Position Description.
  • Consult with someone who has accomplished what you want to achieve to understand the factors that had the most significant impact on their success.
  • Review your performance appraisals and results from feedback surveys to pinpoint areas where you need the most improvement.

You can prioritize each issue or challenge by asking, “What will be the consequences if I do not address this challenge or issue with the next 60 or 90 days or within a year?”  

You can use the following prioritization template.

The four quadrants balance importance versus urgency. Assign each of your challenges or issues based on the importance and urgency of each challenge relative to your other challenges and issues.

Defining the assistance you need focuses on determining the most effective way for you to receive assistance. Effectiveness will vary based on the nature of the challenge and what you have done to address the challenge. In some instances, you may need reinforcement. In other instances, you may need ideas on how to get started. The following matrix can help you define the assistance you need.

Challenges Reinforce Encourage Ideas Perspective
Making presentations that engage my audience x
Getting approval of my ideas and proposals x
Managing relationships with my boss and other members of management x
Executing my personal development plan x

When you define the assistance you need, you get an idea of what traits to look for in your potential board members. Build this into the profiles you will establish to guide the recruiting of your board members. In addition to the assistance you need, consider the following factors for developing profiles.

  • Experience
  • Personal style
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity

Dimensions of experience include depth and breadth. Depth of experience may be important when you are seeking to move into a function, discipline, or area in which you have little or no experience. For instance, an information technology professional with a great deal of experience in managing infrastructure such as computer operations or networks may have minimal experience getting approval of his/her ideas and proposals. If the individual’s target position description requires this expertise, a board member who has a strong reputation for selling ideas would be an excellent board candidate.

Breadth of experience is important when you are seeking to move to a different environment. For example, you may find that your company adopts new techniques and concepts in your discipline rather being innovators. You may have witnessed occasions in which your company hired individuals from innovative companies rather than training or developing individuals within the company. A board member who has worked for companies that are innovators in your field (finance, consumer marketing, product development, information technology, etc.) could help you stay abreast of new techniques and concepts in your field.

Another situation in which breadth of experience in a board member can be valuable is when your company or organization is undergoing cultural change. Individuals with experience that covers multiple corporate cultures can help you adjust to the new culture in your company.

As mentioned earlier, the nature of the challenges you face will influence the type of assistance you need. If you need to seek reinforcement, seek potential board members who are great at validating what others are attempting to accomplish. If you need encouragement, seek individuals who provide constructive feedback and will ask you how you are progressing. If you need to clarify what you want to achieve, seek individuals who excel in providing ideas, options, and perspectives.

Personal style defines how individuals interact with others. It includes how they respond to requests, their approach to solving problems, and how they address issues and challenges. Style is part of our personal chemistry, our input into the mixture that results when we interact with others. Individual styles include those who:

  • Challenge.
  • Seek to collaborate.
  • Rely on logic.
  • Are emotional.
  • Are direct and formal.
  • Are indirect and informal.

It is a human tendency to seek individuals whose styles are close to our own. It makes us comfortable. However, comfort does not always take us to where we want to go. Interacting with people with styles different than our own may help us view things from a different perspective and open our eyes to new possibilities.

Striking an effective chemical balance can be challenging. How can you balance comfort versus the discomfort you may feel when you seek to discover? I suggest that you use what I call the sandpaper principle.

Wood needs sanding to make a high quality piece of furniture. The trick is to find the right type of sandpaper to finish the wood. Too much friction will make the wood too thin. Too little friction will not make it smooth enough. Seek the balance that will provide enough, but not too much or too little friction.

Your gut or instincts will tell you if there is too much friction.

Consider consulting with someone who knows you well or perhaps a coach to help you apply the sandpaper principle.

Given the situation, you may work more effectively with members of your own or other gender. Think about situations in which you overcame challenges and issues. In what type of situations did you interact most effectively with individuals of your own gender? In what types of situations did you work effectively with individuals of other genders?

Ethnicity includes origin (American or foreign), race, and culture. Following are situations that could lead you to determining the ethnicity of a potential board member.

  • Taking or seeking assignments in region in or outside the United States with which you are unfamiliar with the culture
  • Establishing relationships with new bosses who are from another part of the country or from outside the country
  • Joining or assuming responsibility for managing a global team
  • Seeking diversity in the way you interact with others who are different from you
  • Working in an environment in which you are a minority

It is comfortable and may seem the best option to approach potential board members of your race or gender, especially if they have progressed to executive positions. After all, they have overcome race and gender challenges. They must have the formula. I suggest that you consider ethnicity or gender within the context of personal style.  A colleague of mine shared his frustration with an executive of the same race as his who he had recruited to be on his personal board. The board member had an in your face personal style. He thrived on challenging others. The chemistry between my colleague and the board member inhibited my colleague overcoming the challenge of managing relationships. My colleague replaced the board member with one whose style was indirect and informal. The chemistry worked well. The new board member provided guidance that helped my colleague establish effective relationships.

I suggest the following aids to guide your recruitment of your board members.

  • Templates based on personnel requisition forms your company uses or ones that you can discover via internet searches
  • Information from search consultants on how they structure their search assignments
  • Descriptions for position openings on job sites

You can pave your road to success with knowledge and experience of others.

Do you have a personal board of directors?

How does your board operate?

How well is your board working for you?

Have you thought about establishing a board?

What is stopping you from establishing your board?

How could a personal board of directors have helped you address career challenges you have experienced?

What else would you like to know about establishing and operating a personal board of directors?

I invite you to share your comments, experiences, and suggestions. This helps me provide information that may help you address your career opportunities and challenges.

Fields of Success offers complimentary coaching sessions. Visit the Contact page on the Fields of Success website to schedule a session.


Our careers are our most important economic asset.

To get the most value from your most important economic asset, you must manage The Business of You.


Linwood Bailey is a career coach and the author of The Business of Me: Your Job … Your Career … Your Value. The Business of Me provides a career management process and information designed for today’s business professional. Since 2008, Linwood has enabled business professionals to manage their careers. Linwood, the been there coach, provides innovative career management solutions derived from his 34 years of experience managing functions and people in multiple industries, regions, and corporate cultures.



Founder, Fields of Success, LLC

Enabling professionals to convert career challenges into career success stories.

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