It is quite common for a company to have a board of directors who act as representatives to stock holders.
I have written a lot about the importance of mentorship and these type of relationships to help you grow as a practitioner in your career, and there is no reason you should limit yourself to just one. As in other forms of relationships, you will find that you gravitate around certain people for specific things.
Assembling your own Board of Directors (BoD) for you as a person can be beneficial in getting the hard questions answered. Though family members and friends have good intentions when giving you advice, they can often be too affirming and support you in what you want to hear, and not necessarily what you need to hear. With your personal Board of Directors, these are (or should be) constructed with people who will give you a dose of reality in each of their respective practices.
An example of some people who sit in my personal BoD:
- Adam: One of my best friends since I was 10 years old and former co-founder. He knows my habits personally and professionally and has a channel of communication with me that’s the realest.
- Alan: The ex-Apple engineer and inventor who teaches me about shipping, ideas, discipline and getting things done.
- Dylan: The UX Designer who used to teach web design/development. He encourages my writing and generously edits it.
- Jaimee: A seasoned UX Director who expands beyond that. The person who really encourages me to speak at conferences and publicly share ideas.
- Joris: My Dutch friend, a software engineer who chats with me about every month or so about our side projects.
- Kimber: My new manager with industry knowledge of building and running product teams in the bay area. Not only do we have 1:1s professionally in my role but she gives amazing insights personally in my growth as well.
- Marie: The first mentor who taught me the skills of design and has seen my progression from the very beginning. I go to Marie for everything but she has the most knowledge of my career historically.
- Natalie: The proven executive and company builder who has really mentored The Rock Tumbler Collective and advices particularly on my innovation projects.
- Laura: A former VP of Strategy who helps me focus on…surprise…the strategy of my career; where I am now, where I want to be, and how I position myself to get there.
- Lesli: The Canadian Creative Director who I met sitting next to each other one day. A peer mentor who is going through similar growth challenges as I am now in a leadership role.
- Rich: A former colleague and VP of Engineering. He loves to tinker, code, and has encouraged/helped me throughout my quest to write better Swift code.
(This is not everyone but a sampling of the range of conversations)
After reading that you may think, “Wow, that’s a litany of mentors.” It definitely is, and each person voluntarily shares so much value with me.
How to Assemble Your BoD
This is simpler than you may think. Design the structure around your BoD and it will take form. You can formally ask each person for their time, but I’ve often found these relationships form naturally. If they cannot commit to it, they will tell you or it will be very apparent. The cadence in which I meet each person varies on who they are, what they do, and what their schedule can be like.
Put it on the calendar: Treat your Personal BoD like a real board and make time for it other on the calendar. Otherwise it is at risk of getting pushed back or becomes secondary. The BoD provides value for you and your future so you must carve time to do it.
A conventional BoD typically meet synchronously, but it is not necessary in this instance. In fact, I do not think anyone in my Personal BoD has ever met one-another. Just know what information you want to tell them.
How you should meet with your BoD:
- Set time to meet with them on a cadence. It can be quarterly, weekly, or even annually
- Give a clear update of what you have been doing. This isn’t a time to impress anyone. Let them know what is going well and what is going bad
- Ask for specific advice and insights about what you’re going through, and what your goals are
- Take notes and write down your follow up plan. I like to write on physical paper and then add it in OmniFocus as an actionable item.
- Most importantly, don’t waste their time. These people clearly are invested in you and care about you. Make sure you follow up and update them with what happens after you meet.
If you have a BoD, make sure they get a return on their investment. In this case, it is not financial (though it possibly could be), but the return is on you as a person. There is no gratification a seasoned vet in the industry gets more than seeing someone they coach and mentor grow exponentially.
Set the expectation for yourself, not that you’re afraid of letting them down, but strive to make them proud.
Who would be on your Board of Directors? Is it time for you to reach out to people who you trust that will push you to get the best ROI on yourself?