The old saying “it’s lonely at the top” is true.
The higher up you go in an organization, the fewer peers you have. You also learn more confidential information, but there are fewer people with whom you can share it.
Despite there being fewer people in your in-company network, higher level positions are also the ones where you most likely would benefit from having people who can serve as “thought partners” when you want to discuss problems, options, and solutions.
In Napoleon Hill’s classic book “Think and Grow Rich,” he noted with surprise that the top business titans he interviewed did not (as many thought) just sit at their desks alone and ponder difficult problems. They all had small groups of peers they turned to. He called these “mastermind groups,” and you might also think of them as a personal “board of directors.”
In this Harvard Business Review piece, the author talks about the value of having a personal Board of Directors in your life. For your own Board, consider having people with complementary skills. You might have one or two people who are experienced in finance. One or two who are excellent problem-solvers. Someone who has high emotional intelligence who can help you think through the emotional aspect of leadership. And even one person who’s a “truth teller” and doesn’t hold back.
Be Leaderly offers a few suggestions for potential Board members:
- The Mentor
The Mentor offers advice, guidance and feedback on difficult situations. They can serve as an invaluable voice in career-related decisions and help manage professional relationships. To find your Mentor, identify someone who inspires you and who is willing to invest the time and energy in your success. Meet regularly, work together to establish goals, and ask for their guidance when you feel you may be drifting off track.
- The Informational Powerhouse
This person is always in the know — not only when it comes to your organization, but your industry at large. Ask for their advice on new trends, innovation, opportunities, etc. Think of this person as your personal Twitter; they always know what’s going on, what’s upcoming, and can always provide insightful opinions on the matter at hand.
- The Influencer
The Influencer’s support can make things happen. They can provide new ideas or facilitate collaboration with others. Look around and figure out who is your organization’s cheerleader. Who backs up their colleagues in meetings? Who is not afraid to voice their support and help get things done? That’s your Influencer.
A key to making a personal Board of Directors work is being honest about your fears or concerns. Although that level of trust takes time to develop, it will help to start out your Board with people with whom you already have an established relationship of respect and trust.
Question: If you already have a Personal Board of Directors, what types of people did you include?