Re-think your Personal Board of Directors using these 5 Traits
Most of us have a group of people we look to for advice, unconsciously or intentionally, during times of crisis or critical decision making. Some of these people are in your personal circle, privy to your adulting challenges and values, who have offered their advice throughout your life. Some originate from your professional network, influencing your resume, career growth, and professional choices and aspirations. They may not have known it, but these people are your Personal Board of Directors.
You may have found that getting advice from these two different channels in your life served you well. However, you may have also found that you received contradicting advice at times, because each group is focused on a different area of your life.
With the pandemic, these two dimensions of life intersect at a much higher frequency than before. Even as the availability of vaccines continues to open up businesses and high-touch experiences, the division between professional and personal remains blurry. There has been a massive shift of knowledge workers from face-to-face collaboration to work-from-anywhere — along with a hefty investment in technology that suggests this practice will not revert. Parents of school-age children have experienced even more work/home creep, with the challenge of working while homeschooling during shutdown periods. Those who live in multi-generational households encountered different unforeseen complexities, with difficulties accessing home-health aid and accommodating aging parents with various needs. The pandemic has accelerated the blurring of the boundaries, with everyone being forced to adjust work demands to meet personal and family challenges. In addition, we are navigating racial tension and injustice issues that can only be ignored at our peril as a society.
With our frontier constantly shifting, it’s a good time to pause and re-think your mix of advisers. Purposely choose the people who can help you navigate this new normal to ensure your upcoming decisions reflect a diverse and holistic approach to a well-rounded life, help you enlarge your thinking, and build social capital.
Calling this group of valuable guides and mentors your Personal Board of Directors (PBoD) seems pretty dry, so let’s call it your Personal Order of the Jedi (POoJ), just for fun. Read on for five essential traits to include in your choices.
Build a sounding board, not an echo board.
If you are a follower of mine, you know I am a follower of all things Adam Grant. In “Think Again,” Grant breaks out the differences in our personalities to show how our proclivities can affect our ability to influence or evolve our thinking. Having people close to you who can and will challenge your thinking will help you grow what Grant describes as mental flexibility.
Is your natural stance one of a politician, scientist, prosecutor, or preacher? You can take Grant’s quiz, with ten quick questions, here: https://www.adamgrant.net/quizzes/think-again-quiz
When I am in scientist mode, which is my default approach, I rely on rational logic. I can overwhelm people with data and sources when adopting a more persuasive stance could be more effective at building support. A friend of mine, whose re-thinking quiz rated her at 30% preacher, benefits from my influence when negotiating or making business transactions.
POoJ Member #1: Jedi Master of Mental Flexibility. Find that person who always seems to know the right approach to achieve the desired outcome, balance the stances that challenge you with their natural strengths, and is a master negotiator.
2/3 of the time, our emotions get the best of us.
Talentsmart.com studies report that “CEOs, on average, have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace.” While middle managers are typically those who are good with people and get promoted, leaders “spend less time in meaningful interactions with their staff and lose sight of how their emotional states impact those around them.” You can combat this by adding people to your POoJ who can help you become more aware of how your actions might be affecting those around you.
People usually do not accurately recognize an emotion as they experience it–getting it right only 36% of the time. That leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. This startling statistic implies that you need someone on your POoJ who is part of your day-to-day interactions who can help you become aware of how your words and actions impact others. Receiving candid and immediate feedback will help you grow your emotional quotient (EQ) and evolve from emotional reactions to intentional responses. And that leads to fewer regrets.
POoJ Member #2: Jedi Master of EQ. Who is the person you can count on to moderate their words and actions, naturally has deep empathy for others, and is a master relationship builder?
If you have a brain, you have a bias.
We all need help re-thinking and breaking our inherent confirmation bias. Prejudice and stereotypes can be nuanced and complex and can quickly lead to discrimination. Discrimination is costly for everyone involved — and avoidable, through learning the myriad of ways bias shows up in our day-to-day, despite our best intentions. Even if you think you know enough about diversity, equity, and inclusion, having more exposure to other people’s experiences with prejudice and inequities will build your awareness and conceivably your empathy. Learning how to champion others who don’t look or think like you will build more social capital.
Valerie Alexander is a renowned expert on workplace happiness and a leading voice on equity and inclusion, and the author of “Happiness is a Second Language.” In a recent talk, she articulated how nuanced exclusion and cultural marginalization can be.
An observation from Alexander made me re-think how a common network event, like a happy hour with the boss, might exclude non-drinkers, single parents, or those struggling to make ends meet from spending time with leadership. Having a diverse POoJ member like Alexander will help you become more aware of how a subtle but prejudiced action may belie your good intent. Alexander offers a tip on how to neutralize the subtle bias hidden in the happy hour invite with an alternative: provide a chance to mingle with leadership, such as a company-sponsored breakfast with the boss — paid for by the boss.
Alexander quips, “The biggest room in the house is the room for improvement.”
POoJ Member #3: Jedi Master of Re-Thinking. This person may look, think and behave in an entirely different way than you. That’s great! Choose someone who actively champions diversity and is a master at busting the status quo.
Harmonize masculine and feminine energy.
Regardless of gender, people who can balance masculine and feminine energy can provide broader perspectives. Like accessing the scientist versus the preacher mindset when the scenario calls for it, strive for equality in the contributions of masculine and feminine energy in decision-making.
Consider when assertiveness, considered masculine energy, would benefit your decision-making versus accessing feminine energy such as vulnerability. The value of assertive energy seems apparent. Everyone can recall when observing or practicing assertiveness helped facilitate desired results, such as standing up for personal values or during business negotiations.
If vulnerability doesn’t seem as effective at first thought, Brené Brown, author of “Dare to Lead,” offers an entire body of work describing how imperative it is for leaders to show their vulnerability. (Add Brown’s “Dare to Lead” podcast to your watch list.) You can unpack this vision of vulnerable leadership by considering how valuable courage can be. As Brown explains, “You can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability. Embrace the suck.” She describes how “vulnerability is teachable, observable, and measurable.”
Who better to teach, observe, and help you measure your masculine or feminine energy than a trusted adviser who exemplifies the capabilities you might find challenging to channel?
POoJ Member #4: Jedi Master of Balanced Energy. This person is the one you turn to who helps you avoid binary thinking and decisions. Choose someone who is a master at balanced identity and energy.
Who’s Watching your Six?
The term “Got your Six” is a military reference for people who are watching your back (from the six o’clock position.) In police tactics, a similar phrase, “Watching your Six” refers to being hypervigilant about your surroundings.
Everyone needs someone looking out for them who is ready to spend some personal collateral if required. That last part is essential–someone who defends your back and is willing to take action in your defense, sometimes at a cost to themselves. Why would they be willing to do this? Because they know you would do it for them.
This person is the one you call in the middle of the night for help, and they come. They focus on ministering to you, not judging you. They are someone you have known for some time, have worked through conflicts with you, weathered their own life events, and are unwavering in their loyalty to you. While you might be buried in the complexity of the decisions in front of you, this person is watching your six.
POoJ Member #5: Jedi Master of Defense. Choose someone who is a master of trust and loyalty to you.
There’s power in the ask
You may already have a good idea of the people you want on your POoJ. Please don’t keep it a secret. Ask each person if they would be willing to serve you in this capacity. There is an honor inherent in asking someone for their opinion and their mentorship. There is value in verbalizing why their opinion is important to you. And it’s an invaluable way to communicate the traits that attract you and why they would be a valuable member of your Order.
Like my POoJ, I value your opinion and your experiences — please add your comments. May the force be with you.
Hone your craft, speak your truth, show your thanks