Create a Personal Board of Directors Part II

by Cameron Schaefer on January 1, 2008

Meeting GraffitiThe last post, Create a Personal Board of Directors Part I, focused on who you should place on your board. The emphasis was on diversity, relationship, shared values and leaders. This post will focus on what to do once you’ve created your board, emphasizing purpose and structure. You can bring together the most diverse group of talented, creative and wise people in the world, but if there is no clear purpose or system to organize them you will have nothing but a few interesting conversations. With a bit more thought and intentionality your board can be of incredible value to your life, providing council, accountability, encouragement and security.

As I have discussed this topic with various people who have boards of their own, or similar systems of oversight, I have come across some common threads that make them successful. But, the truth is you must come up with a system that makes the most sense for you. Things like how many times you meet, if you communicate by phone, e-mail, face-to-face, what areas to cover…all of these things will depend completely on your current circumstances and should be decided on by you and your board, most likely, through a bit of trial and error. The following points are simply starting points, thoughts that have come forward as I’ve created my own board and begun the process myself.

Goals – If the purpose of a personal board or council is to guide you in your life then they must understand where you want to go. Making a set of goals each year is a good way to communicate to your board where you would like them to focus their energies. My previous post on balance provides a great starting point for making annual goals, but the method is not as important as the result, giving your board a starting point to work from.

Once you have created your goals it is important that each member of your board knows and understands them. Equally important is continually reviewing them, assessing your progress and discussing areas of improvement. Some system of review should be at place on your board, whether it means reviewing your goals once a month, once a quarter, or again, whatever makes sense for your situation. The key is simply to update your board on your progress from time to time.

Accountability – Just as a CEO is accountable to the shareholders via the corporate board of directors, you too should give your personal board the charge of keeping you accountable, nothing is off limits. One of the greatest lies is that there is such a thing as a secret. Secrets are always exposed, light is always shown on darkness, if not now, soon enough. All you have to do is look at the news over the past few years to see how destructive a secret can be. Enron, WorldComm, steroids in baseball, doping at the Olympics, the fall of prominent church leaders, the list is endless.

It is only when we live as if there is no such thing as a secret that we can truly be free to live our best. One of the reasons for filling your board with people you have had past relationship with is to allow this practice of accountability to operate effectively. Living with no secrets does not mean that everyone you meet should know everything going on in your life, but choosing a few trusted friends and mentors to continually ask you the tough questions is a life practice that will keep you from going down many wrong roads. As part of your board structure, make sure there is someone who will always ask you the tough questions each time you meet or communicate.

Life Decisions and Coaching – One of the most obvious benefits of a personal board of directors is their ability to give you advice during major life decisions such as a career change, relocation, etc. There is wisdom in the presence of a strong group of advisers. If you choose your board wisely there is a good chance that someone on your board has already walked through the situation you are facing at any given time. Even if they have not experienced it personally, chances are that one of them will have a connection to someone that has. This form of social capital can be very beneficial when making your way through life, giving you a forum to filter your ideas and decisions.

Coaching is another aspect of having a personal board that can benefit one greatly. Having quality people around to coach you as you walk through life enables you to avoid unnecessary mistakes. Why pay the price yourself for a stupid choice when you can learn from someone who already has. Make it clear to your board that you value their experience and desire for them to share it with you, no holding back. Coaching is another reason why it is important to have leaders on your board. As I said before, leaders love making other leaders so coaching is a natural part of this and one that you should emphasize if your personal board will be of any impact.

Celebration – Up to this point there has been a lot of talk about principles, life skills, etc. These are all very valuable things, but by themselves can be somewhat lifeless. For me, one of the most important aspects of surrounding yourself with a close group of advisers and friends is that of celebration. Successes, victories and fun times are only as great as the people you have in your life to share them with. One of my dreams has always been to have the money to take a group of my close friends and mentors on a vacation every few years. They wouldn’t have to do anything, but show up, I would take care of the rest including airfare, accommodation, food and whatever we were doing for entertainment. This dream is so exciting because it represents, in my opinion, what is best about life, time spent in quality relationships with the people you love. Climbing a mountain is fun, climbing a mountain with a group of good friends is more fun.

I think that in order for a personal board of directors to really thrive there must be an aspect of celebration among all the members. When someone has a child, celebration. When someone gets a promotion, celebration. Aaron Stern, pastor of The Mill, a college group of around 1,400 at New Life Church, once said that true friendships are measured not by how much a person is there for you during the hard times, but how much they celebrate with you during the good times. True friends are genuinely happy when you succeed, no jealousy, no envy, just joy. This is rare, but it’s good and it’s what makes friendships worth fighting for….and what makes celebration a necessary part of any personal board of directors.

At the start of the first post on this subject I shared that all of this had come about as a result of a conversation with my friend Beau Suder. The conversation is ongoing, as it usually is with us, and he brought up an important point a few days ago. His concern was that as we build a personal board of directors, or as he calls it, advisory council (I think he’s sometimes suspicious of my love for business metaphors) we don’t view members through the lens of, “what can I get from you,” but rather with a heart to serve them as well. I couldn’t agree more.

There is no doubt that when we are young we have less to offer in the way of experience, skills, etc. thus the need for a board in the first place, but it doesn’t mean we should view our relationship with members as a one-way street with us at the receiving end of all the benefits. Find ways to take care of your board in whatever ways you can. Don’t make it hard for them to coach and guide you. AND, understand that one day, when you have gained experience, knowledge and understanding you may be asked to mentor or advise in some capacity…do it!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Justin Steinhart January 2, 2008 at 10:53 pm

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Floroskop March 19, 2008 at 4:51 am

I think this try.

daniel November 12, 2008 at 10:54 pm

First I would like to thank GOD for allowing me to find out the right information that I need for my up-an coming business. What lead me to you was the black suits, because we are a black owned company and I was trying to find a picture that I could put in a power point presention for our first meeting. I tell you the truth that the picture of the Jet made me think of owning one myself, then the LORD lead me to reading your letter and I thank GOD for you to writting this letter that is so helpfull.

PS, Please email me as much info on running a business as you can possibly send. Once again thank you and I thank GOD for your knowledge.

Trishaaah May 7, 2009 at 5:51 am

I recently completed a 14-week life [time] management study at my church which touched on accountability. It was sponsored by We were encouraged to establish accoutability partners (one to one) and/or accountability groups (many to many). Accountability boards were discussed as a vital tool for pastors–not really for individuals. As a high-activity, high-commitment person with a career & family, I am interested in learning how to set up a personal accountability board–invites, scheduling, guidelines, etc.

marthafines December 25, 2009 at 6:07 am

Merry Christmas to all… and to all a good night.

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