We’ve probably all heard the saying….”Your growth in life will be determined by the people you meet and the books you read”. Another favorite is “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with”. It definitely makes you think, doesn’t it? These statements lead back to the question in the title…
Does your personal network make your life bigger or smaller?
“Great leaders are only as strong as those that they surround themselves with.”
It is this notion of self-awareness and overall influence that set the tone in my book What Exceptional Leaders Know. In it, we borrow many key ideas from corporate America that allow readers to harness the skills and strategies to become more impactful leaders.
One of the most popular ideas is that of the personal board of directors. Of course, everyone knows what a traditional board of directors is. Most growth-oriented companies and start-ups organize a group of people with various talents and skill sets to help set the direction for the organization. Typically, the members are chosen because of a positive impact they can have on the decisions and strategies of the organization.
So how do we apply the essence of the board of directors to our personal development?
First, we can leverage its power to make sure we are constantly improving our skill sets and our awareness of areas where we can improve. Norman Vincent Peale was the first to write about the power of this idea. He famously called it “The Mastermind Group” and wrote at length about using our relationships and our imaginations to drive purposeful self-improvement. He understood, as did his mentor Andrew Carnegie, the power of deliberate time being spent with people who can influence you for the better.
As ambitious people, we’re going to be growing, learning, and changing throughout our careers. We shouldn’t leave anything to chance, or rely on the “accidental influencers” we bump into. Being open to and deliberately in search of the right influencers will be a big part of reaching our potential as leaders.
So how do you start organizing your personal board of directors?
Start by thinking about people who have been positively influential for you in the past. Who are some of the people who have helped you have the success you have experienced so far? Keep your perspective open wide, as these influencers will not just be people you worked with. Some of your most powerful influencers will be teachers, coaches, friends, authors, speakers, and peers.
Think about yourself as you are right now. Then think about the professional you would like to be. Consider some of the exceptional people that you know who have some of the attributes you aspire to.
6 Key Steps for Putting Together Your Personal Board of Directors:
1. Do a little thinking about yourself and your current performance.
Ask yourself some questions: what is working for me? What is not? Who is influencing me now? When do I have the most fun in my current role? What have I been doing the same way for too long? What are my greatest assets?
2. Think about some people who have some of the spirit, capability, attitude, enthusiasm, credibility, and influence that you would like to have in your personal board of directors.
They can be peers, friends, authors, speakers, bloggers, poets, musicians, celebrities, athletes…whoever. They can be dead or alive. They can be people you know or people you don’t. Make a list of these people.
3. Review this list and think about what you would like to learn or assimilate from each person.
Who on your list do you have access to? How will you access him? It can be in-person, over the phone, by reading his books, by seeing his work.
4. For the people you have personal access to, ask yourself a few more questions.
Will this person give me some of their time? Will they give me unfiltered opinions? Can I do something in return? It’s not necessary to tell anyone that they’re going to be on your personal board of directors, unless you think it will help the relationship.
5. Post your personal board of directors somewhere you can see it and make a commitment to seek out input, content, lessons, and conversations in any form you can get it from the members of your board.
6. Review the concept occasionally and ask yourself if it’s adding any value to your development.
You may need to be more active and overt, or you may need to shake up your personal board of directors.
Why should corporations and start-ups be the only ones benefiting from organizing influential groups of skilled and talented strategists?
Get your personal board of directors organized as soon as you can think about how your different board members may be able to influence your own development. Be sure to not lose sight of additional leadership takeaways that we’re offering in What Exceptional Leaders Know as well—particularly, that you should always continue to be a work in progress.
Your personal board of directors is established to help you grow and succeed. If you are beginning to feel like you aren’t learning or improving, then it is time to adjust your personal board of directors accordingly until you find what works for you.
It’s a powerful idea, and once you see the impact of it, then you too will begin to know What Exceptional Leaders Know. And who knows: if you share it with other people you care about, then you may end up on their personal board of directors yourself!